Monday, October 1, 2007

Exoneration Using DNA Brings Change in Legal System

All but eight states now give inmates access to DNA evidence that might not have been available at the time of their convictions.

read more digg story
Many years ago, I was a police officer. One night a suspect entered a convenience store, robbed the two clerks, and then took them hostage, driving away in one of the hostage's car. The hostages were released, the police were called, and a description was broadcast. The suspect was spotted, a chase ensued, and the suspect abandoned the car and fled on foot. After a foot chase through a wooded area, the suspect was apprehended and brought to police headquarters.

The detectives in charge of the case knew they were supposed to conduct a line up, but where could they find other individuals to participate at 1:00 AM? They called in several patrol officers, myself included, and directed us to remove our uniform shirts, gun belts, and other items that identified us as police officers. One small problem - all the officers were wearing dark blue pants, shinny shoes, and clean white t-shirts. We were around 6 feet tall (give or take a few inches) and well groomed. The suspect, who had been chased through the woods prior to his arrest, was wearing bluejeans, tennis shoes, and a dirty t-shirt. He was a good 6 inches shorter then the rest of the line up and probably 50 lbs less than the smallest officer present. Guess who the victims picked out of the line up?

This event illustrates the problems with police procedures. These reforms are small steps in the right direction. Perhaps we have reached the tipping point that will result in a restoration of a better balance between individual liberty and an orderly society. Unfortunately, these new policies had little to do with an order society, but were direct threats to liberty. Abuses by police, prosecutors, and other members of the criminal justice system undermine support and respect for the entire system.

The new procedures regarding line ups and witness identification are sorely needed. How long will it take for other states to step forward and address these abuses?

No comments: