Friday Roundup: Learning the Lessons of Exonerations


A proposed Florida Innocence Commission could help prevent wrongful convictions in the state

. With $200,000 in legislative funding, the commission would be able to examine wrongful convictions and recommend reforms to the state’s criminal justice system. Continued funding and willingness to adopt reforms are crucial elements for the commission to have any success.  To date, 12 people have been exonerated through DNA testing in Florida.

Texas Prosecutors say DNA evidence connects an accused rapist to a 1984 murder and rape of a Southern Methodist University student, but

the defendant’s lawyers are challenging the interpretation of the evidence

. After the victim’s sorority sisters urged police to re-examine the case, cold case investigators say they tested preserved DNA from the murder scene and linked the defendant to the crimes; he was already serving a life sentence for a Houston-area rape. Earlier this month,

exoneree Ronald Cotton and crime victim Jennifer Thompson appeared at the Maryland Celebration of Reading

where they met former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.  Cotton, who was wrongfully convicted in 1985 of raping Thompson, spent over ten years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him in 1995.  In the years following Cotton’s exoneration, the two wrote a book, entitled “Picking Cotton” about their experiences. They spoke about the book and the case at the Maryland event.

Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and his wife Nancy have just released a new book about wrongful convictions and the injustice of imprisoning the innocent

.  The book, titled, “False Justice,” explains how wrongful convictions can be prevented and challenges myths of the criminal justice system.

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