A busy week in the world of criminal justice. Let's see if we can cover the highlights succinctly.
- Today, New Mexico's Senate is discussing HB 825, which would abolish the death penalty in the state. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) will be liveblogging the event.
- Yesterday, South Dakota became the 45th state to enact legislation giving inmates the right to post-conviction DNA testing... And then there were five. (Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Alaska remain.)
- The Obama administration for the first time in Federal court opposed the claims of torture victims at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, claiming that aliens held at the camp had no due process rights. Not the move we would like to see from the President of Hope™ and Change™.
- Joeseph Fears became the eighth person in Ohio to be exonerated by DNA evidence and the 234th nationwhide. "[Ohio] State Sen. David Goodman introduced a bill yesterday seeking improved access to DNA testing, a requirement to record all interrogations and reforms to eyewitness identification procedures."
- From the Sentencing Project, Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and John Conyers (MI-14) have introduced legislation to study the racial disparities in the legal system:
The advisory group would be responsible for gathering data on the presence, cause, and extent of racial and ethnic disparities at each stage of the criminal justice system. Each of the advisory groups would recommend a plan, specific to each district, to ensure progress towards racial and ethnic equality. The U.S. Attorney will consider the advisory group's recommendations, adopt a plan, and submit a report to the Attorney General. The Act requires the Attorney General to submit a comprehensive report to Congress at the end of the pilot program, outlining the results from all ten [pilot] districts and recommending best practices.
- In a laudable move, the DA in Harris County, Texas (which contains Houston), has ordered DNA testing in every case where biological evidence is available. A solid step toward the prevention of wrongful convictions, even if there is still much to be done.
- Finally, Bernie Madoff is, as you know, going directly to jail without passing GO.