The Pressing Need for Forensic Reform
On April 18, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts moved to dismiss 21,387 drug convictions which were the result of the misconduct of state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan. This followed the recent announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to renew the national Forensic Science Commission that held the promise of raising forensic standards across the nation. If it’s not going to happen on a federal level, Massachusetts must do it on a state level.
For far too long, crucial decisions regarding forensic science have been made without the involvement of the scientific community, and as a result, innocent people suffer.
- Flawed forensic science is a leading cause of wrongful convictions, contributing to nearly half – 46% – of DNA exoneration cases.
- Ensuring that only the most reliable forensic science makes its way into Massachusetts courtrooms is a vital tool in the fight against wrongful convictions.
- Given the multitude of forensic issues that have plagued Massachusetts, the Commonwealth can wait no longer.
Senate Bill No. 1285 (Brownsberger) would create a forensic science commission in the Commonwealth and your support of its passage is crucial!
Compensating the Wrongfully Convicted
Exonerees are victims of a flawed criminal justice system. They are subjected to the unique horrors of wrongful conviction and spending years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. The agony of prison life and the complete loss of freedom are only compounded by the feelings of what might have been but for the wrongful conviction. Deprived for years of contact with family and friends and the ability to establish oneself professionally, the nightmare does not end upon release. The Commonwealth should do everything in its power to heal the harms of wrongful conviction by providing exonerees with the compensation and services they need and deserve.
Massachusetts was the first state to make exonerees eligible for services as well as compensation, but experience has shown that the 2004 statute is not meeting the goals of supporting the wrongfully convicted in their return to freedom or compensating them fairly for the harms they have suffered.
Senate Bill 877 (Jehlen) would improve the law's ability to meet these goals by providing Massachusetts exonerees with
- Immediate access to transitional services and a cost of living stipend;
- A more efficient process for receiving compensation
- Removal of the $500,000 compensation cap
- Compensation for reasonable litigation costs and attorneys’ fees
Passing Senate Bill 877 (Jehlen) would assure justice for the wrongfully convicted.