Economist: Improved DNA Access Would Mean More Exonerations


An article in this week’s Economist

questions the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny DNA testing in the case of Innocence Project client William Osborne, who is seeking DNA testing that could prove his innocence of a 1994 rape. While the use of DNA testing to secure convictions is growing fast, the magazine writes, the use of DNA testing for potential exonerations has met a harder road.

Many prisoners might be cleared were DNA testing more routinely available. The American legal system encourages plea bargains, whereby accused people accept a much lower sentence than would be imposed if they were found guilty. In the absence of the DNA evidence that would clear them, even innocent people may conclude that a plea bargain is the safer option. More than 90% of convictions in the United States result from such bargains.

Steven Benjamin of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers contends that the restrictions on post-conviction testing amount to a fear of the truth. He may be right.


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