Criminal Injustice and DNA Testing

July 15, 2011
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Since the late 1980s, DNA testing has exonerated more than 250 wrongly convicted people, who spent an average of 13 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

How did that happen?

Since the late 1980s, DNA testing has exonerated more than 250 wrongly convicted people, who spent an average of 13 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

How did that happen?

  • 40 of them actually confessed to crimes they didn’t commit, most adding specific details that only the real culprit could have known [because] police browbeat them into false confessions.
  • Eyewitnesses wrongly identified the accused in 76 percent of the 250 cases [often because] police contaminated the eyewitness identifications with suggestive methods, like indicating which suspect in a lineup should be selected, or conducting lineups where one suspect obviously stood out from the others.
  • In 61 percent of the trials where an analyst testified for the prosecution, including overly confident claims of matching bite marks, shoe prints and hair samples.
  • In 21 percent of the trials — informers … in exchange for lenient treatment from prosecutors, lied about hearing specific details of the crime from their cell mates.

Full NYT review of Brandon L. Garrett’s book: Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong.