Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The New York Times supports access to DNA testing

Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial to accompany their article on prosecutors' reluctance to grant DNA testing. The editorial called for states to pass laws granting access to DNA testing. Forty-six out of 50 states have such laws today, with the remaining four being Maryland, Alabama, Alaska and Oklahoma.

An excerpt from the Op-Ed, that sounds a lot like yesterday's article:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2006 that defendants have a constitutional right to introduce evidence of this sort of “third-party guilt” — the suggestion someone else committed the crime. Prosecutors often say they oppose DNA testing because it is burdensome, but testing requests are not that common. In many cases, prosecutors seem to be motivated by a desire to avoid having their work second-guessed by objective science.
The comments on the article from yesterday were surprisingly civil and one-sided. Most reflected outrage and disappointment at prosecutors' general refusal. This particular reader put it better than I could have:
It is absolutely amazing that the same prosecutors who want to collect DNA from everyone who comes into contact with the courts, including traffic law violators, refuse to use that same test to verify their convictions. Apparently prosecutors view DNA evidence as a great tool to fish for perpretrators and get convictions, but don't want it used to question their convict at all costs prosecutions. It is sad that prosecutors believe the judicial system is about closing cases instead of justice and truth.
— darter1, Columbus, Ohio (emphasis added)
SimpleJustice also has a great commentary on the article,
The excuses offered are silly, easily undermined by basic arguments, facts and the science itself. There is no good reason to refuse a convicted prisoner access to DNA testing. Even the slippery slope, that if they let one prisoner do it, every prisoner will want to if for no better reason than to take a shot in the dark. After all, they can't do worse than they already have. But this doesn't pan out either, both because there are so few DNA cases to begin with, and because it involves DNA testing on old cases, since new cases are having it done already as a matter of routine. Assuming the worst, it's just not much of a burden.

And so we get down to the bottom line of the issue squarely framed in the Times' article, yet wholly ignored. Who cares what the prosecutors have to say. Why aren't judges ordering these DNA tests? (emphasis added)
That's a good question, and totally unaddressed, as he said. Now, I do wonder that...

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