CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

"An End to DNA Test Waivers?"

Jonathan Adler has the post over at The Volokh Conspiracy, approving the reexamination of a Bush Administration policy that required some defendants to waive their rights to DNA testing as part of plea deals. An article in the Washington Post discusses this "little-known" policy. After noting the argument that such testing for federal convicts has been rare, the article continues:

But DNA experts say that's about to change because more sophisticated testing will soon bring biological evidence into federal courtrooms for a wider variety of crimes. Defense lawyers who have worked on DNA appeals strongly oppose the waivers, saying that innocent people sometimes plead guilty -- mainly to get lighter sentences -- and that denying them the ability to prove their innocence violates a fundamental right. One quarter of the 243 people exonerated by DNA had falsely confessed to crimes they didn't commit, and 16 of them pleaded guilty.

"It's a mean-spirited policy. Truth, ascertained by science, should trump the finality of a conviction," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project. He said the waivers are effectively "gutting the impact" of the 2004 law because 97 percent of federal convictions result from guilty pleas.

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