Preventing Wrongful Convictions and Exonerating the Innocent

The Drum Major Institute hosted an event on Monday called “Preventing Wrongful Convictions and Exonerating the Innocent”, which featured Dallas County DA Craig Watkins as its headline speaker. Here’s a comprehensive liveblog of the panel discussion, which gets into all kinds of issues, from the cost of incarceration to the need to change attitudes and more. For those of you who have been following the HPD crime lab saga, with its bad science of serology, here’s a preview of the next crime lab scandal to come, which could happen anywhere. The speaker here is Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project.

Barry says that if you look at all felony arrests and compare exoneration rates it’s an “infinitely small number.” The point is, “what do we learn from all this,” he says. He mentions using laptop computers and other “best practices” — like videotaping interrogations — that reduce wrongful convictions.

He says there is an upcoming Washington Post series about “composite analysis of lead bullets.” Expert witnesses testified using bullet analysis for 30 years and used this practice to convict, and then three years ago the National Academy of Science said that was nonsense, that evidence just doesn’t stand. “This is laying dormant now,” he says, and all these cases are now in question. He says there are thousands of cases haven’t been looked at, all from people that were convicted from questionable evidence.

“The truth is that…in this whole area of forensic science where frankly DNA has changed everything” I think we are seeing a huge change in all of these areas.

The whole thing is compelling reading, and I highly recommend it. There’s also a couple of video clips here. Check it all out.

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