News 05.07.10

Friday Roundup: A Victory in New York and Progress on Other Cases

Yesterday, New York’s highest court ruled that the New York Civil Liberties Union may continue with a case that charges New York State with failing its constitutional duty to provide effective counsel to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes.  When a defense lawyer doesn’t do his or her job, the defendant suffers. 

The ruling recognized that innocent defendants are convicted or plead guilty with less-than-sufficient representation

.

Tonight’s episode of ABC’s “20/20” will be an

hour-long special report on controversial fire investigations

.  The program will examine several arson cases, including Cameron Todd Willingham’s case. Willingham was convicted and sentenced to death for allegedly killing his three children in an arson fire in Corsicana, Texas, in 1992.  Leading up to his execution in 2004, nearly all of the evidence against him was reviewed and found to be inadequate by fire expert Gerald Hurst.  John Lentini, who assembled a peer review panel to review the evidence in Willingham’s case, will be interviewed on the program.  Watch the full story tonight on “20/20” at 10 p.m. ET.

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher M. McCowen,

who was convicted of murder in 2006, has requested a new trial because DNA evidence linking him to murder victim Christa Worthington was not properly presented to the jury

.  Pursuant to a United States Supreme Court ruling, Melendez-Diaz, the DNA technician who performed DNA tests should have testified, but the technician’s colleague testified instead.  McCowen also claims racial bias among the jury contributed to his conviction.  McCowen is black and Worthington was white.  His request is under review.

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