Attorney General Eric Holder today overturned a controversial federal policy originated under President George W. Bush that required federal defendants to waive their right to DNA testing in order to plead guilty.
Holder ordered a review of the policy last year after an investigation by the Washington Post and wrote in a memo released today that the policy was “too rigid to accommodate the facts presented by individual cases.”
Nineteen of the 261 people exonerated nationwide through DNA testing pled guilty to crimes they didn’t commit, and Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld applauded Holder’s reversal of the policy.
“It never made any sense to force people, as a condition of a plea, to give up their right to future DNA testing, particularly since we know that factually innocent people plead guilty,” Neufeld told the Washington Post.
The waivers have been part of the standard plea agreement filed by some of the nation’s most prominent U.S. attorneys, including those in the District, Alexandria and Manhattan. Defense lawyers say their clients are essentially forced to sign the waivers or lose the benefits of a plea agreement, such as a lighter sentence.