Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More thoughts on the IC

Let's stay cautiously optimistic on Greenleaf's innocence commission. And we must remain vigilant. This is much better than what is happening right now, which is nothing. Here's how I would change it, if I were dictator.

Remove corrections officers and victims assistants from the "must" list. They are not directly involved in the conviction of an innocent person. If the "must" list is restricted to just those who are directly involved, i.e. police, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, then there is more credibility to the list. It's also hard to justify victims advocates on the "must" list but criminal justice organizations on the "may include" list.

Or include representatives of academia and crminal justice groups on the "must" list. This would add greater balance.

This story is splashed across the front of the Patriot News today, which brings to another issue on which we must be vigilant. There could be too much emphasis on DNA exonerations. Each innocent man cited in the Patriot story was exonerated by DNA. Professor Rago referred to our 8 DNA exonerations.

Cases in which the perpetrator leaves behind DNA are not the only cases in which there are wrongful convictions. In fact, if you think about it logically, which is asking a lot in Harrisburg, DNA exonerations indicate that there are certainly wrongful convictions in non-DNA cases. In murder cases, for example, the perpetrator leaves DNA just 15% of the time. If we are finding wrongful convictions amongst those 15%, certainly there are innocents among the other 85%.

This story will continue to unfold. We'll watch it.

UPDATE, 12:30PM: I forgot that I wanted to give props to Dauphin County DA Ed Marsico for publicly backing SB1069:
Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said while law enforcement officers are constantly examining their procedures, he welcomed the proposal.

"Certainly a study that could help us better investigate crimes and learn from cases where mistakes were made seems like a good idea," Marsico said.

After the AP story in December on PA's death penalty when Marsico said this...
Some prosecutors disagree that their approach has changed, but Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico Jr. acknowledged that it's possible they are getting more selective about seeking the death penalty. He said better representation for defendants also may be a factor in driving the numbers downward.

"Defense attorneys are getting better training, and courts are assigning more seasoned defense attorneys in these cases," Marsico said.

...a friend of mine said to me that we must be making progress when DAs start to sound reasonable.


Post a Comment

<< Home