News 02.06.12

Virginia Fails to Notify Individuals Who May Have Been Wrongfully Convicted

It took 18 months for local Virginia authorities to inform a convicted rapist that a recent DNA review not only excludes him of the crime, but also implicates a known felon, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

Bennett S. Barbour is one of at least 76 convicted felons who have been excluded as the source of biological evidence through DNA testing by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. However, some of these individuals have yet to learn of the evidence pointing toward their innocence.

“When Bennett Barbour is excluded on the basis of a DNA test in June of 2010, but doesn’t find out about it until 2012, there is a serious problem with the notification process,” said Matthew Engle, legal director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law and one of Barbour’s lawyers.

After reviewing the results from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, the Urban Institute said recently that it has identified 37 potential wrongful convictions among the cases. But the department has refused to release additional information on the cases, even after the Richmond Times-Dispatch filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to learn more about the 76 defendants.

“It’s hard to imagine any legitimate justification for keeping this information secret,” Engle said. “Not only these individual convicts but also their families and the general public have a strong interest in knowing when the criminal justice system fails.”

In 1978, Barbour was convicted of rape and an unrelated burglary and sentenced to a combined 18 years.  He was released on parole after serving more than four years. Barbour and his legal team are hopeful that the new DNA report will exonerate him.


Read the full article.


 


Read more about Barbour’s case.


Read more about the Virginia DNA review.

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