On Sunday, on the back of the Week in Review section, the New York Times published something they called The DNA 200. It shows photos of the 200 people convicted in the United States who have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing and the number of years they lost to prison.
It’s a strong visual. And sobering. (For the online version, click here. Then follow the “multimedia” link.)
Although most people were wrongly convicted because of more than one factor, says the Times, analysis shows that the primary factors, repeated in case after case, were inaccurate eyewitness I.D., mistakes or problems with the forensic science, false confessions obtained under duress, and false testimony by police informants.
Last year California passed a collection of reform bills aimed at reducing wrongful convictions by addressing some of the problems listed above.. They were supported by most all the state’s law enforcement agencies including LA Chief of Police Bill Bratton and then Attorney General Bill Lockyer. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed them.
New and improved versions of the bills have been introduced this year and, as of last Friday, were beginning to make their way through the state legislature. This group, like last year’s bills, has strong law enforcement approval. And, like last year’s bills, they are expected to pass.
Then it will be up to Schwarzenegger.
(Arnold, honey….We gave you credit for being lots better than Gray Davis on criminal justice issues. Don’t make us take it back.)