News 02.14.13

Nation’s Capital to Improve Criminal Procedures

After a commission recommended changes to Washington, D.C. criminal procedures to avoid wrongful convictions, courts and police have settled on a number of reforms. Since eyewitness misidentification and informant testimony are leading causes of wrongful convictions, police will change how they conduct lineups, and the courts will better notify defendants before police informants testify.  Officials will also retain trial records permanently to ease post-conviction procedures. 

D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield created the committee in response to requests by the D.C. Public Defender Service following the December 2009 exoneration of Donald Eugene Gates, reported the Washington Post. U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., whose office is reviewing cases for any forensic errors, welcomed the recommendations.

“In addition to remedying past wrongs, we understand the importance of establishing best practices that will protect the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Machen’s office said in a statement.

Led by former presiding judge of the criminal division Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan, the 14-member commission included judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, police, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), aides to the deputy mayor for public safety and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

Commission members will continue to meet twice a year to review innocence issues. 

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