Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bulletin: Innocence Network: Record 31 exonerations in 2013; Two of them attributed to new laws aimed at making it easier to overturn wrongful convictions; Bad forensics said to follow misidentification and false confessions as leading contributor to wrongful convictions;

RELEASE: "Innocence network organizations secured a record 31 organizations in 2013," publishedby the Innocence Project on December 23, 2013. New report details this year's wrongful convictionsacross 15 U.S. states and the Netherlands;

GIST:  Monday, December 23, 2013) – A report released today by the Innocence Network reveals that 29 people in the US and 2 people in the Netherlands were exonerated for crimes they didn't commit by Innocence Network members in the past year.  This is the largest number of exonerations that the Network has secured in the five years that it has reported its exonerations.  “Although it is painful to read about these tragic injustices, this year’s report does signal that the innocence movement that began two decades ago is gradually making progress in improving the system,” said Keith Findley, President of the Innocence Network and Co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.  “There were two people who were exonerated by new laws that were passed to make it easier to overturn wrongful convictions.  We also saw how new technology is helping to correct injustice.” 
Debra Brown of Utah, who served 17 years for a murder she didn’t commit, was the first person to be exonerated through a 2008 law passed by the Utah Legislature that makes it easier to overturn a conviction where there is no DNA evidence.  Andrew Johnson, who wrongly served 23 years for rape, was the first person in Wyoming to be exonerated based on post-conviction DNA testing that was possible because of a law that the state passed in 2008. With the passage of a law in Oklahoma in May, all 50 states now have laws that guarantee access to DNA testing to overturn wrongful convictions.    The Knoops Innocence Project in the Netherlands saw its first exonerations this year. Nozai Thomas and Andy Melaan, who were convicted of murder and served 5 and 8 years respectively, were exonerated based on the testimony of a digital forensics expert who produced evidence that Thomas was at his desk downloading music at the time of the murder and that Meelan had used his cell phone on the other side of the island when the crime occurred.   The report also serves as a stark reminder of the flaws that plague the system," added Findley. (Keith Findley, President of the Innocence Network and co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project).  "Misidentification continues to be the leading contributor to wrongful convictions, followed closely by false confessions and bad forensic practices.  But this year we also saw numerous instances of police and prosecutorial misconduct and the tragic results of relying on incentivized informants.""


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