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DNA databases and privacy: A lively discussion on USAToday.com
Posted: August 9, 2007 12:08 pm
A recent USA Today article questions whether the sharing of DNA “partial matches” between states is an invasion of privacy. A Denver prosecutor is asking California officials to share information on a person whose profile partially matches evidence from an unsolved Denver rape, and California’s Attorney General has refused.
The standoff between the two agencies appears to be the first but likely not the last such clash over a new DNA technique called "familial searching," says Angelo Della Manna, chief DNA analyst for the state of Alabama and an adviser to the FBI on DNA policy.Since the article ran last week, 33 people have commented on the USA Today website. Read the full article and join the discussion now.
"At some point you ask yourself as a scientist not only 'what can the science do?' but 'what are we comfortable with it doing?'" Della Manna said. "We're reaching that point now."
The Innocence Project supports the collection and databasing of DNA from convicted felons. We believe that any policy of collecting DNA from additional populations impedes law enforcement and violates personal privacy. Read more about the Innocence Project’s position.
Tags: DNA Databases
Video: Innocence Project Policy Director calls for evidence preservation and quicker testing
Posted: October 2, 2007 4:27 pm
Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom discussed evidence preservation and DNA databases at a Johns Hopkins University panel discussion yesterday on DNA and law enforcement. Watch the video here.
Tags: Evidence Preservation, DNA Databases
Posted: September 5, 2008 3:07 pm
New projects and investigations launched this week by innocence organizations, law schools, prosecutors and attorneys general across the country show the momentum nationwide to overturn wrongful convictions and address the root causes of wrongful conviction to prevent future injustice. Here’s this week’s roundup:
Questions were raised about standards of DNA collection and preservation in Massachusetts after improper procedures were revealed in a high-profile case. Mass. is one of 25 states without a DNA preservation law.
The Mississippi Attorney General said this week that the state is underfunding DNA tests and DNA collection and a new task force is examining the state problem.
San Jose opened California’s largest crime lab, training began in Maryland before a new law expanding the state’s database took effect and cutbacks in Georgia led to furloughs for prosecutors and could cause lab closings.
The Midwest Innocence Project this week launched an investigation into a 1988 fire that killed six Kansas City firemen and led to the conviction of five people who say they’re innocent. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a first-of-its-kind panel dedicated to investigating cases of possible wrongful conviction, finished reviewing its first case, deciding that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the conviction of Henry A. Reeves. And Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins asked county officials to allow filming in his offices in coming months for a Discovery Channel documentary.
Some of the best policy analysis and research to help improve our criminal justice system comes, of course, from our nation’s law schools – and now many of those schools have blogs. Marquette University Law School launched a new faculty law blog, and a post by Keith Sharfman finds that “blogging’s potential as a medium for serious legal discourse can no longer be doubted.”
A column on Law.com asks: “Is the future of legal scholarship in the blogosphere?”
Here at the Innocence Project, we read law school blogs everyday. Among our favorites are Crim Prof Blog and Evidence Prof Blog
New York University Law School has formed a new Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which will seek to promote “good government practices in criminal matters.”
Tags: California, North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Innocence Commissions, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing, DNA Databases
Houston Man on His Way to Exoneration
Posted: December 11, 2008 6:00 pm
After spending five years in prison, a Houston man is set to be released tomorrow because DNA testing shows he did not commit a 2002 child rape. The Harris County District Attorney's Office announced this afternoon that it would make arrangements for a bond hearing to take place December 12 in Houston.
Convicted in 2003, Ricardo Rachell was originally sentenced to serve 40 years after being charged and convicted of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old child. Despite having been denied a DNA test in his original trial and subsequent appeals, Rachell's case is one of 540 currently under investigation by Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson and his office as a result of Houston's crime lab debacle.
DNA evidence collected by Houston police during their investigation of Rachell was never tested, which was a mistake, Magidson said. He said his office has reopened the case and identified a new suspect, who has not been charged.
Read the full story here. (Houston Chronicle, 12/11/2008)In a press release today, Magidson made assurances that his office would continue to investigate cases where DNA testing could prove innocence. Over the last several years, the Innocence Project has called for the review of several hundred Harris County cases that may have been tainted by improper work in the Houston crime lab. Read the Harris County DA's Office press release here and a timeline of events in the Rachell case here.
Read more about the Houston Crime Lab on our blog or view a list of Texas exonerees here.
Tags: Texas, Access to DNA Testing, DNA Databases
Two Connecticut Men Seek New Trial Based on DNA and Other Evidence
Posted: January 7, 2009
Ronald Taylor and George Gould are currently serving 80 years for the 1993 murder of a local shop owner. Both men have always maintained that they did not commit the crime, and new DNA evidence secured by an unlikely source may help them get a new trial.
Taylor and Gould were both found guilty of murdering Eugenio Vega DeLeon 15 years ago. They were convicted largely based on eyewitness testimony and other circumstantial evidence. The men are currently waiting for a judge to decide whether they should get a new trial.
A private investigator hired by the public defender's office says that DNA found on an electrical cord used to tie the victim's hands together matches neither Taylor nor Gould. Despite the fact that this testing was done in 2006, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington's office has yet to run the DNA profile from the cord in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databank – which could identify who actually committed the murder. In nearly 40% of DNA exoneration cases nationwide, the actual perpetrator was later identified, often through DNA database searches.
The man who helped secure the DNA testing on the cord, Gerald O'Donnell, is a former Cheshire police officer who previously did work for Dearington's office. Over the course of three years, O'Donnell has compiled a thorough report that supports Taylor's and Gould's case; among his findings:
Gould and Taylor served time on the same cellblock as Miguel Roman, who was released from prison a couple of weeks ago when DNA testing supported his claim of innocence.
- fingerprints found on the door handle of a safe in the victim’s store (where he was killed) are not Gould’s or Taylor’s, and police are now either unable or unwilling to locate the fingerprints for new analysis,
- the state's main witness now admits in a taped interview that she lied at trial because police were threatening to send her to jail, and
- another witness recanted her testimony, now saying that she was pressured by police to say she saw two black men in the victim's store.
Read the full story here. (Hartford Courant, 1/4/09)
Read more about Miguel Roman’s case.
Read more about James Tillman, who was exonerated through DNA testing in Connecticut in 2006.
Tags: Connecticut, James Tillman, Eyewitness Misidentification, DNA Databases, Fingerprints
End wrongful convictions in New York
Posted: March 5, 2012 10:30 am
Tags: New York, Reforms, False Confessions, Eyewitness Identification, Eyewitness Misidentification, DNA Databases
Wrongful convictions affect all New Yorkers
Posted: March 5, 2012 2:00 pm
Tags: Reforms, False Confessions, Eyewitness Identification, False Confessions, Eyewitness Misidentification, DNA Databases
DNA Evidence Proves West Virginia Man's Innocence, But He Remains Behind Bars
Posted: January 4, 2013 4:30 pm
Tags: West Virginia, DNA Databases, Joseph Buffey
Washington Man Cleared of Murder
Posted: April 15, 2013 4:15 am
Tags: Washington, Jeramie Davis, DNA Databases