Thursday, December 15, 2005

DNA Shows Alarming Rate of Inmates are Wrongfully Convicted...

As if we needed yet another reason to pass a death penalty moratorium in the United States, the Washington Post reports this morning another story of wrongfully convicted inmates exonerated through DNA.

The case involves two men in Virginia. One was released in 1991 after spending nearly 11 years in prison for assault. The second man has been in prison for 20 years for rape. Both cases “relied heavily” on eyewitness statements.

About a year ago, Gov. Warner ordered DNA to be tested “on a small number of biological samples that had been collected in thousands of criminal cases.”

After finding “two innocent men among the 31 newly examined cases,” Warner has now ordered an “even more sweeping review.” Boxes containing DNA evidence from 1973 to 1988 are to be reexamined “using the latest DNA technology.”

Fortunately for the two saps in the sample, their alleged victims survived. Otherwise they would be receiving their executive pardons in the world beyond. Nothing brings a death sentence quicker in the Commonwealth than a murder linked to rape; and if the victim is White and the accused is African-American, forget about it!

I mean, recall the case of Earl Washington, Jr., an African American male with an IQ of 69 who was accused of raping and killing a white woman.

Only days before he was to be executed, former-Gov. Wilder granted him clemency. Virginia law had a ridiculous 21-day rule that barred any new evidence, but new evidence proved Williams was not the killer.

"I believe a look back at these retained case files is the only morally acceptable course, and what truth they can bring only bolsters confidence in our system," Warner said in a statement.

The statewide mandate marks the first time a governor has ordered such a broad DNA review of criminal cases.

“This is a 7 percent innocence rate -- among people who never even asked for testing -- that should give pause to people who think mistakes in our criminal justice system are flukes," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project. "This should be a beacon for other governors across the country to implement post-conviction DNA testing."

Other than Texas, Virginia leads in executions. But with the recent election of anti-death penalty Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, the work started by Warner will be advanced with DNA testing of Roger Coleman, an innocent man executed in 1992.

Kaine, a man of faith and spirit is the perfect soul to lead the dialogue on this important subject. And with the help of God, capital punishment will soon be abolished.

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