Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Improving Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review

The Justice Project (TJP) has constructed a national program of initiatives designed to increase fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system. As part of their work, they have developed a series of policy reviews on the leading causes of wrongful convictions that explain the problems and recommend common sense solutions.

I’m pleased to provide you with an electronic copy of the latest TJP policy review,
Improving Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review. (Click the title for PDF.) This policy review provides an overview of problems with current post-conviction DNA testing laws, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and policies for DNA testing, and includes a model policy.

TJP’s six recommendations for states will improve the effective use of post-conviction DNA testing to create a more accurate criminal justice system and restore public confidence in the system’s ability to correct its own errors.
TJP recommends:

  • States should require the preservation of biological evidence throughout a defendant’s sentence and devise standards regarding custody of evidence.
  • States should ensure that all inmates with a DNA-based innocence claim may petition for DNA testing at any time and without regard to plea, confession, self-implication, the nature of the crime, or previous unfavorable test results.
  • States should require judges to grant post-conviction testing petitions when testing may produce new material evidence that raises a reasonable probability of the petitioner’s innocence or reduced culpability.
  • States should ensure that petitioners have access to objective and reliable forensic analysis at independent and privately funded labs, subject to judicial approval.
  • States should provide counsel and cover the cost of post-conviction DNA testing in cases where a petitioner is indigent.
  • States should standardize post-testing procedures for cases that produce testing results favorable to a petitioner.

    All of TJP’s policy reviews are available in the National Work section of our their website The Justice Project, here
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