Civil Rights

200th Wrongly Imprisoned Man Freed by DNA

|

The Innocence Project announces its 200th exoneration using DNA evidence. It took 13 years for the group to reach its 100th exoneration. It took just 5 to reach 200.

Here's the scary part: The vast majority of jurisdictions across the country only recently began keeping blood and tissue samples (within the last 10-15 years). These exonerations have largely come from the few that began keeping them earlier. Dallas County, Texas for example, has had 13 of the 200 exonerations all by itself. More than 400 more convicted men there await testing to possibly clear their names.

As the Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg explains in an editorial critical of Houston's own criminal justice system, Dallas County's high exoneration rate isn't so much a reflection of what is has historically done wrong (which was plenty, but not all that unusual) as what it's now doing right. It's blessed with a prosecutor who's more interested in justice than rolling up conviction statistics.

NEXT: Hurwitz Trial Update

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Saw this story. I was impressed by the fact that they were able to get good information from a 25-year-old sample.

  2. What do you say to a man you’ve wrongly imprisoned for 25 years? “Sorry?”

  3. It’s soo weird to think of Dallas County as an example for civil liberties protection and good evidence processes and procedures.

  4. The wrongly convicted probably did something else wrong that they got away with.

  5. I wonder if the convictions overturned get deducted from the current AG’s conviction statistics?

  6. lunchstealer,

    You could also read it as an indictment (npi) of their past good evidence processes and procedures.

  7. What do you say to a man you’ve wrongly imprisoned for 25 years? “Sorry?”

    “What are you looking for as a settlement amount?”

  8. …It took 13 years for the group to reach its 100th exoneration. It took just 5 to reach 200…

    um, “5 more to…”?

  9. Chicago Tom:

    I’m not sure if he can seek redress. I’ve seen no allegations of misconduct, which I think is the only grounds for any suit against the State. He appears to have been lawfully [“lawfully” not “rightfully”] convicted based on the evidence and I’ve seen no claim that the evidence was tainted in any way.

    I could be wrong, though. Maybe the lawyers among our posters can give a more definitive answer.

  10. You could also read it as an indictment (npi) of their past good evidence processes and procedures.

    You could, but it would probably be a mistake. Is Texas worse than, say, Mississippi?

  11. 200th Wrongly Imprisoned Man Freed by DNA

    Were they all men?

  12. What is the price of Freedom? Well, now that the value of DNA evidence has been so shockingly demonstrated, it may be that the Government (on behalf of all of us) must provide expert DNA analysis to any defendant who requests it free of charge. If we believe that innocent persons should not be punished, we can do no less.

  13. The next step will be for the government to require DNA samples from all residents. In the name of justice.

    If you have nothing to hide, how could you object?

  14. I’m a civil prosecutor, and everyone I work with is an ex-DA. I can’t imagine why any half-decent DA wouldn’t test a defendant in a case where it’s appropriate, especially in capital cases, because, and I will say this V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y,

    IF YOU LOCK UP THE WRONG GUY, YOU AUTOMATICALLY LET THE ACTUAL PERP GO!!!!!!

    Sure, it’s hideously embarassing to have to let some guy go, but it’s a hell of a lot better to do so before the trial than after he’s been in jail 20 years. I know this is hard for some DA’s and cops to understand, but your job is not to rack up convictions, it’s to put the actual, you know, criminal, in jail.

  15. Wow. A prosecutor who’d rather suffer the embarassment of having a wrongful conviction overturned, than know an innocent man is dying in prison. Now that’s a man bites dog story.

  16. Is Texas worse than, say, Maryland?

    How many of the person released were falsly accused non-rapists?

  17. “Just last month in Maryland, self-styled ballistics expert Joe Kopera committed suicide after it was revealed that he lied about his expertise and training. Kopera had testified in hundreds of criminal trials over 40 years, many of which may need to be reopened.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,267800,00.html

  18. “IF YOU LOCK UP THE WRONG GUY, YOU AUTOMATICALLY LET THE ACTUAL PERP GO!!!!!!”

    Are you writing for THE WIRE? That is close to what Omar said to Bunk when Omar was set up for murdering a citizen.

  19. Are you writing for THE WIRE? That is close to what Omar said to Bunk when Omar was set up for murdering a citizen.

    Whoa buddy. Some of us haven’t gotten to season 4 yet.

  20. What do you say to a man you’ve wrongly imprisoned for 25 years? “Sorry?”

    You send him the bill for room and board, obviously.

    Think like a statist, man.

  21. MOS, that’s a common statement among DA’s and cops, as a way of reminding the less, oh, persnickity that there’s a good reason to avoid rounding up “the usual suspects.”

  22. What do you say to a man you’ve wrongly imprisoned for 25 years? “Sorry?”

    No.
    You say the same thing you would say to the widow of a man who died of cancer 25 years before the advent of chemotherapy: “He was born too early.”
    Actually, you just think it. It would be cruel to say it.

  23. Grant Gould,

    Holy crap! Please tell me that’s from the Onion or something.

  24. I heard Craig Watkins (new Dallas County DA) on NPR several weeks ago. he was damned good. Keep an eye out for that name in upcoming years.

    Although he may actually be the type who just wants to be the DA – he kinda came across that way – or else he could be one of those scary good pols to be able to give that impression on the radio.

  25. Is this enough data to start doing statistics on the reliability of the legal system?

  26. “I’d rather let a thousand guilty men go free than chase after them.”

    –Clancy Wiggum

  27. this is horrible. it sends the message to criminals that if they prove they are innocent of a crime, then they will be released or possibly won’t be punished at all!

  28. Is this enough data to start doing statistics on the reliability of the legal system?

    Probably a significant percentage of wrongly convicted people are not actively trying for exoneration even when possible (because they are out of prison and have better things to do). If you leave them out of the sample, the reliability would be overstated.

  29. The thing to do is to look at a random sample of those cases where a conviction could be overturned on DNA evidence, and see how often that happens.

    You could also look for wrongful acquittals, if the evidence still remains.

    Then you start looking for patterns.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.