Friday, October 5, 2012

300th Person Exonerated By DNA Evidence

DNA evidence exonerated yet another death row inmate on Friday, after a Louisiana judge overturned the murder and rape convictions of 38-year-old Damon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux had served 16 years in prison — 15 in solitary confinement – for the alleged rape and murder of his 14-year-old step cousin.

Thibodeaux was convicted based solely on a confession, recanted later that day, that he says was obtained after nine solid hours of threat-riddled, unrecorded police interrogation. Countering that confession was a dearth of any evidence corroborating that he was the perpetrator. In fact, it was later determined that the victim had not been sexually assaulted at all.

Thibodeaux now becomes the 300th person and the 18th death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence – an important marker for the emergence of DNA exonerations. But it would be a mistake to think that DNA is a magic pill to cure the ills of our criminal justice system. If anything, these exonerations say more about the high error rate in convictions than about the power of DNA, given that there is no DNA evidence in the vast majority of cases (even in Thibodeaux’s case, DNA evidence was initially unavailable), and that routine collection of DNA from suspects can have perverse and troubling effects. The Washington Post’s Douglas A. Blackmon explains:

Read on.... 

I would have thought it would be more by now.  Tom

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