Sunday, April 22, 2007

200th DNA exoneration tomorrow

Today’s Chicago Tribune has a remarkable article about the exoneration of Jerry Miller. Miller, an Army veteran who’d never been convicted of a crime, was identified in a police line-up by two eye-witnesses, and ended up serving 25 years in prison before being cleared by DNA collected at the scene of the crime. The Innocence Project was instrumental in his exoneration, which will be the 200th exoneration in the United States as a result of DNA evidence. (More about The Innocence Project here here’s their blog.)

A couple of facts stood out for me after reading the Trib article:

  • In cases overturned by DNA evidence, 75% of the convictions were a result of faulty eye-witness testimony. You can read more about mistaken identification “here”:

  • Even more incredibly, confessions are also to blame in mistaken convictions. In more than one out of four wrongful convictions, the suspect actually confessed to the crime – even though DNA evidence later demonstrated that they did not commit the crime in question. (More about false confessions here.)

Fewer than half of the states in the United States have compensation provisions to compensate prisoners who have been wrongfully imprisoned as a result of a mistaken conviction. Think about that for a minute: in 29 states in the U.S., you can be convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, sent to prison, later found innocent and released. Without so much as an apology. In the case of Jerry Hill, the man who served 25 years for a crime he did not commit, he’s eligible for a total of $35,000.

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