(New York; May 1, 2006) — The Innocence Project today released the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling this morning in a case about whether defendants have the right to introduce proof of a third party’s guilt – and their innocence – if forensic evidence helped secure their initial conviction. The Innocence Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Holmes v. South Carolina.
The following statement is from Barry C. Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project.
“This is a profoundly significant ruling. This ruling is a big victory, and its impact will be felt in cases throughout the nation. Today, the Supreme Court expanded the right of defendants to prove their innocence by demonstrating the guilt of third parties. The ruling recognizes that courts cannot accept the prosecution’s version of forensic evidence automatically and uncritically, and the defense has a right to examine and rebut it. In many of the 175 post-conviction DNA exonerations nationwide, people were wrongly convicted based on flawed forensics or limited science. DNA is the most powerful form of forensic proof available, but it is still subject to erroneous interpretation or application, and the defense has a right to challenge that in court. This ruling says that certain kinds of forensic science aren’t foolproof, and the mere fact that forensic evidence helped secure a conviction can’t prevent people from trying to prove their innocence. Today’s ruling is a strong signal that the Supreme Court is taking the right of defendants to prove their innocence very seriously and is taking a critical look at forensic evidence.”