Saturday, 12 July 2008

Roundup of news

Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer

Posted: July 11, 2008 4:18 pm

There’s so much news each week on wrongful convictions and forensic science that we can’t cover it all. Here’s a roundup of news you might have missed:The ripples are still being felt from the Brewer and Brooks exonerations in Mississippi. An editorial in today’s Hattiesburg American says a new task force in Mississippi “has a lot on its plate” in a state without standards for evidence collection and testing.

On Monday, an editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger said “the inadequacy of Mississippi's ‘CSI’ would make a sad, and scary, episode if it were presented on television.”Earlier this year, Innocence Project clients Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were exonerated after serving 15 years in prison for nearly identical child murders they didn’t commit. Brewer was on death row for most of those 15 years and he could have been executed.

But DNA testing in Brewer’s case proved his innocence and pointed to the real perpetrator, who confessed to committing the crime for which Brooks was serving as well. Stories about crime labs were clogging the news this week, while evidence backlogs were clogging the labs. A report from the Urban Institute found that DNA has become more effective than fingerprints and witnesses in solving burglaries and other property crimes. The problem is that if this expanded use of DNA testing becomes the national norm, our crime labs will be overwhelmed. Arkansas has increased funding for its state lab to cut the backlog from 15,000 cases to 2,500 cases.

And an Omaha crime lab is tightening security after alleged mishandling set off a scandal.We keep hearing at the Innocence Project about students and teachers using the resources from our “947 Years” website to build lesson plans and class presentations about wrongful convictions and forensic science. But as DNA testing becomes more prevalent in criminal cases, who is teaching our nation’s judges about advances in forensic science? The answer: UNC professor James P. Evans. Find out what he’s telling judges across the country and why he says judges are afraid of science.

Tags: Kennedy Brewer, Crime Lab Backlogs

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