News 06.13.12

When Prosecutors Oppose DNA Testing

An article in today’s Chicago Tribune exposes a disturbing practice by some prosecutors who object to post-conviction DNA testing when there is a strong likelihood that the testing could prove innocence and free innocent prisoners. The Tribune reports on several Illinois cases from the last year in which prosecutors in Cook County and Lake County unreasonably opposed testing.

“When we started doing this work 20 years ago, we received opposition on requests and motions to do post-conviction DNA testing in more than three-quarters of the cases,” said Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of the New York-based Innocence Project. “Today … the overwhelming majority of prosecutors do not oppose motions for DNA testing.”

What’s more, Neufeld said, prosecutors rarely challenge DNA results that appear to indicate a suspect’s innocence. Prosecutors in Cook and Lake counties are part of a tiny group that consistently do that, he said.

“That kind of consistent rejection of logic and common sense,” Neufeld said, “is fairly unequaled around the country.”

One such case is that of Innocence Project client Michael Saunders and his three co-defendants of the “Englewood Four,” who were wrongfully convicted of murder and spent a combined total of 51.5 years in prison. When DNA testing was finally granted and performed, it not only proved the innocence of all four men, but led prosecutors to the true perpetrator.
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