News 08.14.09

Friday Roundup: Progress Around the Country

Important policy reforms, pending cases and other developments around the country this week highlighted the complexities of wrongful convictions and the need to prevent them at all levels.


North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue signed a bill on Tuesday that seeks to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system

. The bill, which allows capital murder defendants and death row prisoners to challenge prosecutions based on evidence of racial bias, is the second such bill passed in the United States (Kentucky approved a similar bill in 1998.)


Critics of the Rhode Island probation system allege the state’s current policy can put innocent people in prison

because the courts only need to be “reasonably satisfied” that defendants commit a crime, thereby violating parole.


Actress Hilary Swank told Variety magazine that she was excited to work on the “Betty Anne Waters” film

because of its focus on wrongful convictions, an issue about which she cares deeply. Swank’s support of the Innocence Project is featured in Variety’s special issue on philanthropy.


Hundreds of mourners attended a funeral march for Donald Marshall Jr.

, who spent 11 years in a Canadian prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Marshall passed away at the age of 55 of complications from a previous double lung transplant.

New York man William McCaffrey was convicted of rape in 2005 and sentence to 20 years in prison based on the victim’s testimony and bite mark evidence. Last year, however,

the alleged victim told the district attorney that she lied about the rape

. Subsequent DNA tests have since proven that bite marks could not have been made by McCaffrey, but the district attorney’s office is still reviewing the case.

Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols of Arkansas were convicted of murder in the death of three West Memphis boys in 1993. Prosecutors originally argued that the boys were murdered in a cult ritual, but a

forensic pathologist now says that the multiple injuries to the bodies were likely caused by animals

, possibly turtles.

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