April 13th, 2011
This week, two Boston Globe articles have shed light on wrongful convictions in Massachusetts, and what can be done to remedy them. In an op-ed, Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, writes about Massachusetts exoneree Neil Miller. Miller was convicted of rape, largely based on mistaken eyewitness testimony. Garrett points out the problems in the system that cause wrongful convictions time and time again. He recommends that all states adopt DNA preservation and access laws, and advocates for requiring that all police interrogations be videotaped.
Another Globe article this week focused on Massachusetts’ lack of a DNA access or DNA evidence preservation law. A DNA access law would mandate access to post-conviction DNA testing for inmates, with certain restrictions. A DNA preservation law would require that DNA evidence in a case be preserved for a certain amount of time. The article points out that Massachusetts is one of only two states nationwide that does not have a DNA access law (the other is Oklahoma). However, the article incorrectly states that inmates still have access to testing. Unfortunately, this is not the case. An inmate can request testing, but there is no guarantee at this time that his or her request will be granted by the court. Additionally, because Massachusetts has not enacted a DNA evidence preservation law, officials are currently free to destroy DNA evidence related to a defendant’s case, so there may be no evidence left to test. While some inmates ultimately receive testing, others do not. The New England Innocence Project, in conjunction with other Massachusetts organizations, is in the process of trying to get a bill passed that would allow all inmates access to DNA testing and would require that all DNA evidence related to a defendant’s case be preserved.