News 11.14.08

Friday Roundup

Cases, causes and comments we didn’t get to cover on the Innocence Blog during the week:

At a Bar Foundation luncheon Wednesday in Memphis, Innocence Project Staff Attorney Craig Cooley

talked about the importance of preserving biological evidence

:

“They can’t find any of the evidence,” Cooley told those at the luncheon who included prosecutors as well as criminal court judges. “I have five cases in Shelby County. In two cases, we found it. In three cases, we can’t find anything. … Evidence preservation is a huge issue that we are trying to change.”

The need for preserving evidence is clear: DNA testing has helped police solve cold cases and also helps to exonerate the innocent. But news from crime labs this week also shows the importance of forensic oversight and funding.

Last month, we learned that the Los Angeles Police Department had 7,000 untested rape kits. This week, the

LA County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that it has another 5,600 untested rape kits

. Human Rights Watch estimates that some

400,000 rape kits could be awaiting tests nationwide

. Meanwhile, the federal government has cut spending aimed at reducing backlogs. A

New York Times editorial

on Monday called on federal lawmakers to act immediately to address these backlogs.

William Dillon, who has been in Florida prison for more than two decades for a murder he says he didn’t commit, will have another day in court on Tuesday. Dillon’s attorneys, working with the Innocence Project of Florida, say new DNA testing proves his innocence, and

will present this evidence to a judge at Tuesday’s hearin

g.

Attorneys at the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project got a bill this week for $37.78 from the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office, for documents and recordings in the case of Thomas McMillen. The sheriff’s office had originally said the copies would cost $700, but media reports pointed out that state law requires public agencies to charge only actual reproduction costs for information requests.

An editorial in the State Journal-Register says that this episode illustrates the need for Freedom of Information reform in the state

.

The Texas State Legislature is considering reforms to enhance the jury experience statewide, and the Innocence Project of Texas submitted written testimony yesterday to the House Judiciary Committee on the topic. The testimony begins:

“While most of the discussion here today is likely to focus on payments to jurors for their time, jury recruitment and other such measures, we cannot forget that some of the worst juror experiences come not from waiting in long lines or losing time at work but participating, unknowingly, in the false conviction of an innocent person.”

The testimony goes on to point out that reforms to prevent wrongful convictions also help juries function more effectively, because they all aim to get more accurate information to jurors.

Read the full testimony here

.

Also in Texas this week, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins was named one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year – and

was featured on the magazine’s cover

.

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