Several stories in the media this week examine the legal limbo many defendants face while seeking to clear their names – and the uphill battle faced by others to get their day in court.
At a hearing next Tuesday in Michigan
, Davontae Sanford will seek to withdraw his guilty plea in a case involving four 2007 murders. Sanford was 16 years old – and read at a third-grade level – when he signed a confession he says he couldn’t read. Another man has now said he was a hit man and committed the murders alone.
In Texas, Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen are awaiting word on whether they will be retried in a multiple murder they say they didn’t commit. DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene recently excluded both men, and they were released pending a reinvestigation. Scott has a hearing scheduled from August 12, and
the Austin Chronicle this week ran an in-depth investigation and update on the case
Also in Texas, the debate continues over the question of
whether Gov. Rick Perry has the power to grant Timothy Cole a posthumous pardon
based on DNA evidence proving his innocence of a 1985 rape.
The New York Justice Task Force held
its first meeting
last week to begin the process of evaluating the causes of wrongful convictions in the state and recommending reforms. State Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a member of the task force, said: “It is our profound belief that we can truly free our criminal justice system of wrongful convictions. It is vital that the public trust that we, the state, are locking up the truly guilty. When dealing with people’s lives, it is essential that we act with precision,” Lentol said. “And as we all know; when an innocent person is in prison, the real criminal is still walking the streets.”
A citizens’ review committee held
its final meeting
in the case of Kalvin Smith, who says he was wrongfully convicted of attacking a woman in 1997. The committee will present its findings to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Alternet reported this week on
the benefits and risks
of collecting DNA profile information from everyone arrested for felonies.
The Innocence Project position on DNA databases is here
In an editorial today,
the Dallas Morning News called for state and federal oversight of forensic science
to prevent wrongful convictions caused by faulty forensics.
The Innocence Project continued to advocate for federal forensic reforms this week as well. For a roundup of forensics news from around the country,
visit the Just Science news page