News 01.28.08

Test of Convictions: An Ohio investigative report

A five-part investigative series this week in the Columbus Dispatch uncovers major flaws in the way the criminal justice system in Ohio uncovers and overturns wrongful convictions.

The flaws have ruinous consequences for inmates, victims and society at large.

Presented with The Dispatch's findings, Gov. Ted Strickland immediately called for a compete overhaul that would speed up the review process, open up testing to more inmates and establish statewide standards for preserving evidence.

"It's not honoring the victim to take the chance that an innocent person is paying the price for victimizing them, because the flip side of the coin is that means the guilty party has escaped justice," Strickland said.

"It's just a matter of trying to do everything we can to be as careful and as accurate as we possibly can be.”

The Columbus Dispatch reviewed hundreds of requests for DNA testing and found that they are often denied without cause.  The series also found that Ohio’s law granting post-conviction DNA testing is inadequate.

Convicts lose their chance for a DNA test when they are released from prison, whether they leave on parole or in a hearse.

Ohio is among 15 states that require a person to be alive and in prison to qualify. Had that restriction been in place nationally, it would have prevented clearing the names of at least 22 men wrongly convicted of rape or murder.

If Ohio allowed for expanded DNA testing, the number of exonerations "would be higher, there's just no question," said Stephen Saloom, policy director of the Innocence Project of New York.

"You've got to ask: Who benefits from refusing to learn whether or not an innocent person was convicted of a serious crime? Nobody benefits — except the real perpetrator. Everyone else loses."


Read the first two articles in the series and view special online features

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