Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Another DNA Exoneration in Dallas

Update: A video of the event. I'm sorry I missed it.

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Original post:

Twenty-five years after being convicted of a rape he didn't commit, a Dallas man will be released today based on DNA evidence that excludes him as the perpetrator. The article about this case in the Dallas Morning News talks about trying to figure out what led to all these wrongful convictions. When you read the article, it seems pretty obvious to me. A mistaken eyewitness, aided by fault police ID procedures, who was believed by a jury that wasn't doing its job. This case is a classic. When initially asked to describe her attacker, the victim was only able to give a vague description. When shown a photo lineup, she pointed to the defendant and said that he might have been the guy. She was then shown a second lineup and tentatively identified the defendant. He, of course, was the only person who was in both photo lineups. But, when she testified at trial, she said that she was absolutely positive that he was her attacker. Instead of being suspicious of this evolution of certainty by the victim, the jury was convinced of it. They spent 35 minutes debating this man's guilt. Thirty-five measly minutes before convicting a man of a first-degree felony for which he could have been sentenced to prison for life. People say that these types of wrongful convictions won't happen anymore because of DNA evidence, but that is a fallacy. Most cases don't have DNA evidence. In my experience, juries in Dallas County still regularly convict people of serious felonies like aggravated robbery and aggravated assault based solely on the testimony of one eyewitness. Prosecutors spend lots of time in their voir dire telling jurors that the testimony of one witness is enough to convict. Until jurors demand more evidence before taking away a person's freedom, innocent people will continue to be convicted. And there won't be any DNA evidence to fix these mistakes.

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