Saturday, 19 December 2009

Editorial: Make DNA testing routine


Editorial: Make DNA testing routine
Editorial • December 19, 2009

Wherever you stand on the death penalty you have to believe that the state should be as sure as possible that people on death row are guilty.

That means DNA testing should be routine whenever it might establish guilt or innocence.

James Bain, convicted and sentenced to death for the 1974 rape of a 9-year-old Polk County boy, was turned down four times for DNA testing to see if semen found on the boy’s shorts could have been Bain’s.

Finally, an appeals court overturned the denial of his fifth appeal. Thursday, Bain was released after serving 35 years for a crime he did not commit. The victim had identified him as the attacker, but DNA testing showed he could not have been the rapist.

It’s hard to imagine how DNA testing could be withheld at this point. Some 248 people have been exonerated now by DNA testing, including 10 others in Florida and 17 on death rows around the country, according to The Innocence Project, which helped Bain.

Public support for the death penalty, as well as its actual use, have been declining, in part because of doubts raised by DNA.

We still believe the ultimate penalty is appropriate in the worst cases.

But if Florida and other states fail to fund and expedite DNA testing in death cases, no matter how old, support for capital punishment will continue to erode—and deservedly so.

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