Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Federal judge delays ruling in convicted officer's case

As in Tommy Arthur's case in Alabama (where Governor Riley has so far denied DNA testing, even though Arthur is on Death Row and faces execution when the Supreme Court reinstates the death penalty), the following makes me just throw up my hands and ask "why." Or more precisely, "why not?" Why not allow DNA testing on evidence that could conclusively prove someone's innocence (or guilt)? Especially, as in Arthur's case, someone's life lies in the balance. Although Steve Fasano's Mississippi case doesn't deal with life or death, it does involve freedom vs wrongful incarceration. Why not allow DNA testing on evidence that could possibly get an innocent man out of prison? What is it about finding the truth that seems to scare so many prosecutors and judges?

Clarion Ledger, by Jerry Mitchell, January 10, 2008 -- A federal judge decided today he wants to hear expert testimony before deciding whether former Jackson police officer Steve Fasano can test possible DNA from a bank robber's disguise in hopes of exonerating him in a 2002 robbery.

U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr. said in a hearing that if he had to rule today, he would deny the request but wants to wait to wait to hear testimony from a DNA expert before making his final decision.

Fasano, who has passed a lie detector test, insists he is innocent of the crime for which he’s serving federal time.

The former Jackson police officer did not attend today. He is serving his nearly four-year sentence at a federal prison medical center in Rochester, Minn.
The robber’s outfit was checked out for Fasano's 2005 trial, but prosecutors told defense lawyers afterward it had been lost. That evidence turned up a year later in a prosecutor’s closet — four months after Fasano left for prison in April 2006.
Qualls, who is associated with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, said if someone else’s DNA is found on the outfit instead of Fasano’s, it raises a “near certainty” the bank robber was somebody else.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Starrett disagreed, saying the presence of someone else’s DNA wouldn’t necessarily prove anything.

He said Fasano waived his right to DNA testing long ago. He said the defense had access to the robber’s outfit and failed to test it.

If Fasano is given a second bite at this apple, it would set a dangerous precedent, Starrett said.
Any thinking person concerned about true justice would choke on Starrett's apple, but his sentiment is sadly all too common in today's postconviction arena.

Read entire article.

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