News 05.18.09

Fighting for DNA Tests that Can Prove Innocence

May 18, 2009 – Already, 2009 has proven to be a landmark year for access to post-conviction DNA testing. In March, two additional states passed DNA access statutes—South Dakota and Mississippi — leaving only four states with no form of the law, Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

Although 46 states now have laws allowing some prisoners to petition for DNA testing in their cases, some of these laws impose arbitrary limitations like expiration dates, exemptions for cases where the defendant pled guilty or confessed to the crime, or exceptions for cases where the prisoner has already been paroled. For details on the two new laws, and on the law in your state,

visit our interactive reform map

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The Innocence Project believes that prisoners in all 50 states deserve access to DNA testing. Show your support by

signing the DNA Access Petition

to join thousands of others in calling for post-conviction DNA testing whenever it can prove innocence or confirm guilt.

Alaska is the only state in the nation with no known case of a state prisoner ever receiving access to post-conviction DNA testing (either through court order or because a prosecutor consented to testing). Innocence Project client William Osborne has repeatedly been denied access to testing and has appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Prosecutors in Alaska concede that the testing could prove his innocence, but they still refuse to allow testing in the case. Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld argued before the Supreme Court in March that prisoners have a constitutional right to access to DNA testing that can prove innocence. A decision in the case is expected before the end of June.

Read more about the Osborne case here

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The Innocence Project sometimes faces resistance to DNA testing in other cases, as well. The problem isn’t limited to one state or one part of the country.

A May 18 New York Times article

discusses prosecutors’ refusal to allow DNA testing in some cases even when it could prove guilt or innocence and the Innocence Project has offered to pay for it. For three years, Kenneth Reed of Louisiana has been seeking a DNA test, which he says will prove him innocent of a 1991 rape. Prosecutors have cited the eyewitness testimony against him as sufficient proof of his guilt and have refused to grant him DNA testing.

Although most prosecutors consent to testing, some resist because they don’t understand what DNA testing can show or because they argue that unreliable evidence like eyewitness identification has already proven a defendant guilty. For more information about policies on post-conviction DNA access laws supported by the Innocence Project,

click here

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