DNA tests overturn more wrongful arrests


In countless cases across the U.S. each year, DNA testing conducted before trial releases an innocent person from jail, and eliminates the risk of their wrongful conviction. But months or years spent in jail – or on bond – while awaiting trial can take a damaging toll on a person’s family, career and life. And these cases point to the certainty that innocent people are still being arrested and convicted.

In Kansas City last week, 19-year-old Deangilo Minor was released from jail after serving 10 months behind bars awaiting trial on an attempted rape and a rape. He was identified by the victim in one of the crimes, but DNA testing conducted before trial proved that another man had committed the crimes. Based on the DNA results, Minor was released and the charges were dropped. During the 10 months he spent in prison, Minor lost his apartment and parted ways with his girlfriend.

“This case casts into doubt the reliability of eyewitnesses,” said Dan Ross, Minor’s defense lawyer.

Ted Hunt, assistant county prosecutor, said the case showed the link between DNA and justice.

“It convicts and also exonerates,” Hunt said. “That’s a good thing for people to keep in mind.”

Read the full story here

. (Kansas City Star, 04/17/08)

Wrongful convictions are still happening in the age of DNA testing. Testing is not conducted in all cases involving biological evidence. Innocent defendants take plea bargains before expensive tests are conducted in an attempt to avoid harsh sentences at trial. And then there are the vast majority of cases – more than 90% of all criminal cases – that don’t involve any biological evidence that can be tested. The risk of a wrongful conviction based on eyewitness misidentification or snitch testimony is just as strong – or stronger – in these cases today.

In a similar case, prosecutors in Virginia dropped charges last week against Anthony Worrell, a 20-year-old man who spent 17 months awaiting trial on charges he robbed a drug store. Charges were dropped after DNA testing on specks of blood believed to be from the perpetrator did not match Worrell. Prosecutors said they decided to drop charges “With our ID being a little shaky and without DNA…”

Read the full story here

. (Southwest Virginia Today, 04/16/08)

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