DNA exonerations have revealed that flaws in police procedures – like the way photos are shown to witnesses – have led to wrongful convictions. An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News calls for state oversight of police procedures to ensure that the innocent aren’t sent to prison.
The editorial singles out Richardson, Texas, Police Chief Larry Zacharias, whose department showed a flawed photo lineup to the victim of a rape in 1985. She picked Thomas McGowan and he was convicted.
Twenty-two years later, DNA testing exonerated him
On Thursday, Zacharias will testify about his department’s reform efforts before the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit, one of only
seven innocence commissions
in the nation.
Zacharias lays it on the line: Law enforcement professionals have an "ethical obligation" to upgrade procedures when justice hangs in the balance.
His department learned the lesson a tough way. In 1985, the Richardson PD produced a rape suspect for prosecutors based on a lineup of photos shown to the victim. She picked out a 26-year-old man who was later convicted and sent to prison.
There Thomas McGowan Jr. sat for 22 years, until DNA tests sought by the Innocence Project of New York exonerated him this spring.
Read the full editorial here
. (Dallas Morning News, 10/28/2008)