We need judges and prosecutors to take the initiative to re-examine these cases when they come back to them - not just bury them with their other mistakes. The next Attorney General of Arizona is going to have a big mess to clean up with Maricopa County's wrongful convictions if Thomas doesn't take care of his own business first. Guess he has his hands full these days prosecuting political enemies, though, instead of protecting victims of state violence. His violence. Incarceration is violence. Just ask these men who had whole chunks of their life taken from them - kids grow up, parents grow old and die, human touch is hard to come by. Imprisoning someone for any period of time is no small thing. We'd better make sure that we aren't carelessly throwing the innocent in there as well.
Finally, Congress needs to repeal the Prison Litigation Reform Act and replace it with the Prison Abuse Remedies Act. Ever since the PLRA was passed in 1995 (thanks for yet another swell piece of work, Clinton), it's been extremely difficult for prisoners to sue to protect or seek remedy for human rights violations - they must exhaust all internal administrative remedies before they even have standing in court.
Now, imagine filing a rape complaint against a CO who's popular with the other guards and supervisors, and having to wait for it to go through all administrative channels before you can even get outside intervention to protect you. Anyone have any idea of how many ways you could be punished for that by the time help arrived? Many prisoners don't even bother trying to sue for their rights - just filing grievances can be an uphill battle that just sets you up for massive guard and administrative retaliation. Abuses didn't decrease in prisons after the PLRA was passed - the victims were simply silenced, which usually fosters an environment in which even more serious abuses can take place. We owe the cause of justice better than that. The SAVE Coalition will tell you more about the problems with the PLRA and how to fix them.
Fourteen states have received millions of dollars in federal grants for DNA testing of old cases. In Connecticut, the money will pay for prosecutors, DNA experts and defense attorneys to work full-time reviewing cases and ultimately testing evidence in some for DNA.
Clark and Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, predicted the initiative likely would lead to exonerations, but with the project in its early stages they could not say how many.
"I think in any system which is a human system there will be error," Clark said. "My sense of it is there is not going to be a lot. I don't think false convictions are common."
The Connecticut Innocence Project has already helped free three men in recent years who were wrongly convicted.
In August, Kenneth Ireland was freed after spending two decades in prison after a judge dismissed murder and rape charges against him following DNA testing that showed he could not have committed the crimes.
James Calvin Tillman was released from prison in 2006 after serving 18 years for rape. The state awarded him $5 million for his wrongful conviction.
Miguel Roman was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1988 murder of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Carmen Lopez, but freed after he served 20 years. DNA tests showed he could not have been the killer.
Connecticut received a $1.5 million federal grant for the project. Thirteen other states, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia and Washington have received federal grants as well in the past two years to review old cases...
(Back to the Seattle Times for the rest)