News 08.15.08

The week in review

It was a big week for reform. Follow the links below for stories this week on measures, meetings and commentary around the country aimed at preventing future injustice. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Florida and Alabama spoke out against defendants seeking to prove their innocence, and a Mississippi man got a trial date for murders that sent two innocent men to prison for 15 years each.

In Texas today,

the Innocence Project is calling on the state Forensic Science Commission

to investigate the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for three murders he said he didn’t commit, and Ernest Willis, who was convicted on the same faulty arson science as Willingham and later freed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also held the first meeting of its new Criminal Justice Integrity Unit.

The blog Grits for Breakfast reports on the meeting here

.

 

Prosecutors and law enforcement officers were in a “

tug-of-war

” this week over control of a new crime lab in Orange County, California. A DNA exoneration in Orange County highlighted the need for independent crime labs, after the prosecutor unsuccessfully pressed forensic analysts to alter their reports on testing that exonerated a wrongfully convicted man.


The New York Times’ Adam Liptak

questioned why expert testimony in criminal trials must come from the opposing sides of the courtroom – a practice fairly unique in the world. Two op-eds argued that funding for defense experts would

level the playing field for defendants

.

Evidence preservation continued to garner headlines this week,

a Reno column today

says “the cause of justice must be upheld and preserved. And this means preservation of physical evidence.”

Canada’s highest court

affirmed the exoneration of an Ontario man

and pointed to the “frailties of eyewitness identification.”

Defendants and prosecutors in Alabama and Florida continued to stand at odds this week. William Dillon’s lawyers in Florida said prosecutors were

delaying meetings to keep their innocent client in prison

, and the prosecutor responded by saying “File your damn motions and stop being a cry baby.” The Attorney General of Alabama called on the State Supreme Court of lift its stay of Tommy Arthur’s execution, saying the stay was “

wrong as a matter of law and fact

.” The Innocence Project has consulted with Arthur’s attorneys on the case, and Innocence Project supporters continued this week to send emails to

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley urging him to order DNA testing in Arthur’s case

.

Justin Albert Johnson is

set for trial in Mississippi on September 8

for the murders of two three-year-old girls in the early 1990s. Innocence Project clients Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks each spent 15 years in prison for these murders – Brewer was on death row – before they were exonerated earlier this year.

 

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