The innocence projects have diversified the proceedings that pertain to post-conviction incidences in various states. In Northern California for example, recent exoneration projects have been addressed by legislative and public policy. The commitment to innocence projects have been driven by the desire to correct the injustices and inequalities that have been executed on innocent citizens to ensure that these faults do not recur in future. Strategic plans have been initiated to focus on the allocation of resources to fund reforms and exonerations.
The Californian Commission on Fair Administration of Justice is involved in legal procedures to ensure that flaws which led to unjust convictions have been addressed at state level. Three bills have been coauthored by the commission with the facilitation by donors and friends of the judicial system. Plans have been put into place to allocate particular days for conferences on justice and innocence. One of the cases involve the overturning of the conviction of Ken Foley, who was sentenced to 12 years at Santa Clara after being found guilty of armed robbery with violence.
From the start Foley had maintained his innocence claiming mistaken identity by the victim (Connors, Lundregan, Miller and Mc Ewan, 1996). During the trial, the person who actually committed the robbery testified to that effect, but due to the credibility of the culprit Foley was convicted. From then on, Luke Gaumond the culprit, continued to have regular communication with the defense counsel to help Foley. The case was re-investigated by the District Attorney who concurred that Foley’s case should be restated.
Linda Starr, the Northern California Innocence Project Legal Director led a further investigation to the case filing a writ of habeas corpus. New evidence was presented which led to discharging of Foley. The facts for the case revealed that investigations had not been done properly. The District attorney agreed with the writ which led to the release of Foley on 5th April. Another case of exoneration was that involving Miller who had been accused of committing rape in 1982 and was convicted.
Miller, a man of 22 years had served in the military for three years, when he was convicted of raping, kidnapping and stealing from a woman. He served 24 years in prison but was later released on parole after being required to have an electric device put on his body to monitor his movements at all times. Miller maintained his innocence throughout this period and claimed misidentification. The incident happened and the culprit attempted to drive to safety from the crime scene. The vehicle was however recognized and the assailant ran on foot. Two attendants wrongly identified Miller.
Also the hospital staff did not collect the rape kit from the victim due to the nature of injuries which had been sustained. Re-examination of DNA evidence through testing revealed that the semen from the victim’s clothes could only have come from the assailant. This proved Miller’s innocence despite having lost half of his entire adult life in prison because of wrongful identification which later led to conviction. From this case it is clear that the situation could not have been reversed but everyone has the moral obligation to prevent recurrence of such incidences (Lendray, 1999). Conclusion
From the literature cited above, the question that arises is whether the forensic techniques are accurate ways of determining and validating information pertaining to case work. The debate therefore becomes whether the data collected is perceived, reported and forwarded as rightful evidence which has the scientific backing. In the past no oversight has been encountered in court room by scientists because their methods are perceived to be reliable and valid. The cases of DNA exonerees are some of the cited examples to certify that convictions are sometimes done without preponderance of evidence as is required by the law.
This study therefore has cited various examples of innocent people who have been forced by insufficiency of evidence to serve very long terms in prison by the mere fact that evidence was not obtained using the rightful mechanisms. Most of the cases involved those which attract severe penalties such as rape, murder and robbery with violence. Other cases take as long as twenty years for them to be resolved before the innocence could be proven. In the US the level of post-conviction exoneration has been higher as compared to other nations like the UK.
In the UK, the case involving exonerations were previously rare but currently, they progressively continued to proliferate. Evidences of cases that were closed without enough evidence are very common from the cases that are cited above. In the US, the legal framework, has delegated the mandate to deal with post-conviction cases to state laws which are applicable in their own territories. California is one of the states which have its legislative mechanism to deal with post-conviction exonerations. The innocence project has gained much support due the court decisions that have been reversed.
DNA analysis has also advanced in its application of scientific concept which is capable of storing blood and other bodily samples for long duration of time and can be used as evidences several years after conceptions. However, the challenge still persists in terms of soliciting for funds which are required to enhance legal representation to those who have been judged unfairly. Despite these challenges the federal state government together with other agencies has been at the fore front to ensure that justice does not only prevail but is also seen to prevail against all odds.
From the findings of US Department of Justice (2000), forensic DNA analysis has been promoted by the desire to address the many unresolved disputes pertaining to decision making within the judicial sector. Since the National Council Committee dealing with DNA forensic in United States and the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in United Kingdom, the views have consistently been expressed pertaining to the level of precision through which forensic information can be relied on.
Comprehensive resolutions have been reached at by the two commissions, with each confirming that DNA profiling would introduce better scientific objectivity, which would aid investigative and prosecutorial proceedings. In the US however, specific recommendations have been made to prosecutors, judges and the entire defense council, about how cases pertaining appeals with substantiated DNA evidence should be handled and implemented, as well as improving the existing Acts to avail the required facilities up to the prison level (Reilly, 2001).
References Berger, M. A. (2001). The Technology of Justice: DNA and the Criminal Justice System. John F. Kennedy School of Government; Harvard University. Lessons from DNA: Restriking the Balance Between Finality and Justice. Connors, E. , Lundregan, T., Miller, N. & Mc Ewan, T. (1996). Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial, pp. 51-52, available at http://www. dna. gov/case_studies/convicted_exonerated/dotson Department of Justice (1999).
Handbook of Forensic Services: Evidence Examinations, Washington DC: US, FBI. http://www. dnaresource. com/2003%20Post%20Conviction%20Legislation. pdf http://www. innocenceproject. org/about/index. php Keith, I. & Rudin, N. (1997). An introduction to Forensic DNA Analysis, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc. Lendray, L. A. (1999). Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (S. A. N. E) Development and Operation Guide, NCJ 170609, Washington, DC. National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence (n. d) Understanding DNA evidence: A guide for victim service providers, United States of America.
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