Post-conviction DNA testing first exonerated an innocent prisoner nearly twenty years ago. During this period, we have learned many lessons from the 200 subsequent DNA exonerations, including insight into the factors that led to those wrongful convictions at trial and the procedural obstacles that can make it difficult for inmates whose cases contain biological evidence to procure DNA testing after conviction. Yet, as I have often written in the past, these exonerations are just the tip of the proverbial innocence iceberg. As a threshold matter, very few criminal investigations result in the collection of biological evidence whatsoever; over time, moreover, such evidence often becomes lost, destroyed, or degraded. This signifies that inmates proclaiming their innocence rarely have the benefit of utilizing the tool of DNA testing. In addition, the rate of DNA exonerations is bound to shrink in the future as DNA testing at the front end of the process becomes ubiquitous and thereby reduces the likelihood of miscarriages of justice in prosecutions in which biological evidence is available. Accordingly, the prevention and correction of wrongful convictions in cases lacking biological evidence are issues of critical importance and the focus of this symposium. Specifically, this Symposium represents an opportunity for several prominent scholars to float trial balloons testing theories related to the problem of wrongful convictions in the post-DNA world.
S.J. Quinney College of Law
Utah Law Review, Vol. 2008, No. 1, pp. 1-3.
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