DNA testing has proven the innocence of more than 230 men and women who have collectively spent more than 2,500 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Nobody wins when an innocent person is convicted: not the crime victims, the police, the prosecutors, the courts or the public. Nobody but the true perpetrator, that is. The Innocence Project proposes the following Executive reform agenda to prevent future wrongful convictions and enable post-conviction relief to the innocent upon release from incarceration.
Forensic Science Reform
The new Administration should work with Congress to utilize federal resources to strengthen the scientific development, testing, standardization, application of forensic techniques, and to support implementation and enforcement of those forensic standards to assure the integrity of final forensic products introduced in court, as expected to be recommended in a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences report.
Read more on the need for a national forensic science agency
Creation of a National Commission on Wrongful Incarceration
The National Institute of Justice should establish a commission on the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction. The commission should be an independent investigative committee drawing its membership from key players throughout the criminal justice system.
Oversight and Enforcement of Innocence Protections Established Under the Justice for All Act of 2004
Through Executive maneuvering and DOJ administration of federal-to-state grant programs established under the JFAA, the innocence protections established therein were largely undermined by the Bush Administration.
To remedy this, the new Administration should:
• Support Congressional efforts to reauthorize the innocence protections established under the Justice For All Act (JFAA) of 2004.
• Work with the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs to ensure effective oversight and enforcement of the innocence protections in the JFAA (e.g. Paul Coverdell & Kirk Bloodsworth grant programs).
• Direct the National Institute of Justice to convene a national working group to identify best practices relating to the preservation of biological evidence.
Federal to State Initiatives to Promote Innocence Reforms
To curb the production of wrongful convictions, identify the true perpetrators of crime, and assure more reliable criminal investigations, a program area should be designated under the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program to support technological advancements for local law enforcement to achieve innocence-related reforms (e.g. laptop technology for eyewitness identification procedures; software to catalogue biological evidence; and video equipment to electronically record interrogations).