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Monday, April 23, 2007

200th DNA Exoneration - Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project

Below is a link to a blog post by Barry Scheck, who is the Co-Director of the Innocence Project. Mr. Scheck has just attended the exoneration of Jerry Miller, who has spent the last 26 years in prison based on a conviction for rape, robbery and kidnapping - crimes that he was innocent of.

Here is an excerpt from Mr. Scheck's blog post:

Jerry is 48 years old now. He has lost virtually his entire adult life to a wrongful conviction. And he is the 200th person in the United States who has been exonerated through DNA evidence…

…Combined, these 200 people have served about 2,500 years in prison - that's roughly a million nights in prison.

People often tell me they can't imagine anything worse than spending years or decades in prison for a crime someone else committed. The only thing worse would be to endure the horror of wrongful conviction and not have it count for something - to have society fail to learn the lessons of injustice and reform the system to prevent it from happening to anyone else.

The 200 DNA exonerations nationwide give us irrefutable scientific proof of the flaws in the criminal justice system. We look at every exoneration to determine what caused the wrongful conviction in the first place, and we see clear patterns. More than 75% of the wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification (often cross-racial misidentification, and often from more than one witness); nearly two-thirds involve forensic science errors (from simple mistakes to outright fraud); 25% were based on false confessions (as the result of coercive interrogations or defendants' limited mental capabilities).

By identifying the causes of wrongful convictions, we can develop reforms that work…

Mr. Scheck's blog post, and his work on the Innocence Project, prove that terrible injustices occur in the American criminal court system. These 200 exonerations are only those that were, thankfully, discovered and righted. How many other erroneous convictions have occurred? How many more will occur in the future? The work of the Innocence Project is critically important, not just to the lives of the individuals saved by the dedicated people who are the Innocence Project, but also to the systems of criminal justice around our country.

In my previous blog post I answered the question "How can you defend them?" The successes of the Innocence Project, and stories like that of Jerry Miller, are just more examples of why we do what we do as defense attorneys. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who helped expose the Jerry Miller case. By "we all" I don't mean the community of defense lawyers, I mean Americans.

Here is the link to Mr. Scheck's blog post:

By: Attorney Richard V. Stevens
Civilian criminal defense lawyer and military defense lawyer
Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, PC

Blog postscript: Attorney Frank Spinner and I (attorney Richard Stevens) are former active duty military lawyers (JAG). Our perspectives and advice, therefore, are based upon our experience as military defense lawyers and as civilian criminal defense lawyers practicing exclusively in the area of military law. This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military defense, court-martial practice, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other military and/or legal topics. Nothing posted in this blog should be substituted for legal advice in any particular case. If you seek legal advice for a particular case, please contact The Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens & The Law Office of Frank J. Spinner for a free consultation.

1 comment:

William Newmiller said...

Like you, I've been an active duty military officer--23 years as an Air Force pilot. Thirteen years as a civilian faculty member at the Air Force Academy. Through in another post-retirement year working for the FBI. And like you I have an interest in wrongful convictions. But I'm not a lawyer; I'm a father, a father whose son is serving 31 years for a crime he didn't commit.

As I review my son's case, now on appeal, I see patterns that repeat from the cases of other wrongly convicted, systemic problems that have arisen in our criminal justice system and have resulted in uncounted inaccurate verdicts.

The social cost of convicting the innocent and letting the guilty go free is simply too high. I've tried to account for it at my blog,