Monday, February 10, 2014

DNA testing; Andrew Cohen asks why some states are still fighting the exoneration of the innocent; The Atlantic; (Must, Must Read. HL);

STORY: "Why some states still fight the exoneration of the innocent," by Andrew Cohen, published by the Atlantic on February 6,  2014;

SUB-HEADING:  "Record numbers of wrongful convictions were overturned across the nation last year. But in some places, the trend seems to moving in the opposite direction."

GIST: "The second point that needs to be made in the shadow of the report is that some states today are moving against the flow. Lawmakers in at least two states, Alabama and Tennessee, are seriously considering measures that would tighten appellate deadlines in capital cases, making exonerations harder to achieve. In Alabama, five men were given new trials in circumstances that might be precluded under the new proposal. In Tennessee, the bill now being considered, in addition to moving up those deadlines, would require public defenders to pay fines if they later are found to have provided "ineffective assistance" at trial. What these two legislature proposals tell me, and what the Noling and Swearingen cases confirm, is that there is still a great deal of tension within our justice systems about the relative value of accuracy. For state lawmakers fed up with delays in capital cases, it's more important to bring finality than it is to ensure accuracy. For those prosecutors and judges in the Noling and Swearingen cases, there's no need to look more closely behind the curtain, no matter how substantial the questions may be about whether these men committed these crimes. We all can be encouraged by the pace at which these exonerations are amassing. We all can hope that the support from judges and prosecutors is a trend we can bank on. The number 87 is better than the number 78. But when I read this report, all I can think about is how hard it is to undo these faulty verdicts, how much effort it takes by so many on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, and how stubborn so many others are to see what's right in front of their noses. Our justice systems are quite often unjust and it ennobles us, not diminishes us, when we acknowledge this and move quickly to fix it where we can."

The entire story can be found at:


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