Confession Shouldn’t Bar DNA Testing
In June 1993, a Pennsylvania man was convicted of robbery, rape and murder based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who may have been involved in the crime and a confession that he said police coerced him to sign.
Twenty years later, several key pieces of evidence from the crime scene have not been subjected to DNA testing. They include multiple semen stains, blood stains and evidence collected in the rape kit during the victim’s autopsy.
In a column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Daniel Rubin details the importance of DNA testing that would prove Innocence Project client Anthony Wright’s guilt or innocence of these crimes.
For 20 years Wright has contended he’s innocent, accusing detectives of typing a confession and forcing him to sign it by handcuffing him to a chair and threatening to “rip his eyes out.” The session wasn’t recorded.
At the time, DNA testing wasn’t sophisticated enough to pin him to the crime. But it is now. Or it could exonerate him, and point to someone else.
Should he be entitled to the best evidence available? Shouldn’t we?
Test the man, and be done with it.
Despite a 2002 law that approved post-conviction DNA testing for people convicted before 1995, four judges and the former Philadelphia District Attorney have blocked testing in Wright’s case for more than 5 years.
Last week, Wright finally got some good news when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled the lower courts. The high court held that a confession to a crime does not bar someone from seeking post conviction DNA testing. After noting that the state legislature was motivated to pass the DNA testing law because of the exoneration of a man who had falsely confessed to the crime, the court said, “We need not be reminded of the countless situations where persons confess to crimes of which they are innocent, either out of desire to cover up for the guilty person or because of a psychological urge to do so.”
In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials.
The case will be sent back to the trial court to determine if Wright meets all of the requirements of the DNA testing law. According to the briefs that have filed been filed by the Innocence Project in the case, Wright meets these requirements.
The Innocence Project has agreed to pay for all DNA testing in the case.
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