Monday, April 23, 2007

200th Person Exonerated Today

Earlier today, Jerry Miller became the 200th person exonerated by postconviction DNA testing. Mr. Miller spent 24 years in prison for a Chicago rape he did not commit and, like each of the 200 exonerations, his case is a painful example of injustice in our criminal justice system.

Although exonerees like Jerry Miller can do nothing to recover the years of their lives (over 2,500 years combined) wrongfully spent behind bars, the criminal justice system --- prosecutors, judges, police, defense lawyers, and policymakers --- should seize this opportunity by using the 200 cases as a learning experience, determining what went wrong and why, so that we reduce the future rate of wrongful convictions. For instance, mistaken eyewitness identification was a contributing factor in 75% of these wrongful convictions; 30 years of scientific experiments have demonstrated that there are simple procedural reforms that reduce the chance of misidentification. Yet, still today, too many police departments, prosecutors, and courts continue to rely on the same antiquated procedures and jurisprudence relied upon in many of the 200 wrongful convictions.

For an excellent discussion of the 200th exoneration and its implications, read Barry Scheck's excellent blog on the Huffington Post.

To learn more about the 200 exonerations, click here.