Virginia Seems Disinclined to Free the Wrongfully Convicted
A surface level examination of Virginia’s massive DNA evidence evaluation seems to indicate that the State is taking wrongful convictions seriously and is attempting to uncover and exonerate those who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Seven years and $5 million ago, then-governor Mark Warner ordered a random examination of 31 old cases containing biological evidence that hadn’t been tested for DNA. The audit revealed two wrongful convictions which, in turn, prompted the governor to call for an audit of all cases from 1973-1988 that contained biological evidence.
The problem surrounding this project, however, is that there appears to be an inclination to keep the project hidden, to keep information away from the public eye. No one really knows how this testing is being conducted, and oftentimes innocent people aren’t informed of their proven innocence until months or even years later (as in the case of Bennett Barbour). Conducting wide-scale DNA testing on cases closed before the testing was available is an excellent and necessary step towards freeing the innocent, but it means nothing if there is inclination to keep the information hidden. Pride and ego have no place in the justice system, especially not when the freedom of innocent people is on the line.
Read more here.
New York DNA Database Expansion Signed into Law
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will expand the state’s DNA database into law last week.
Before this law, DNA samples were only collected from people convicted of a felony and a small group of misdemeanors. Now, anyone convicted of a felony or any misdemeanor must give DNA to be collected in the state’s database. The State hopes that this will both decrease and expose wrongful convictions and also lead to putting the real perpetrators behind bars.
Washington State Neglects to Compensate Wrongfully Convicted People Two Years in a Row
The State of Washington’s legislature allowed a new bill that would compensate wrongfully convicted people to die in committee. This is the second year in a row that legislators have allowed this to happen. The bill would have allowed for compensation of up to $20,000 per year of wrongful incarceration.
Exoneree Alan Northrop has spoken in front of the legislature in favor of this bill, but clearly without any success thus far. CNN did a story on Northrop and his wrongful conviction and his efforts with this bill. Watch the story here.