Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict, and Its Impact on the Innocent

By Daniel S. Medwed | Go to book overview

8
A Closer Look
Prosecutors and Post-Conviction DNA Testing

Suppose Smith’s innocence claim pointing the finger at Allen in the drunk-driving case enters the post-conviction process. Skeptical about the alleged new evidence from Johnson and Wiley, prosecutors vigorously oppose the defense motion for an evidentiary hearing. The judge sides with the state, denying the motion without so much as holding a hearing. “If these new facts are truly credible,” the judge writes, “then why did the witnesses fail to mention them at the time of the original trial? It seems quite convenient to blame this crime now on Allen, a convicted thief who may not be able to defend himself against these old charges.” A panel of judges later affirms this decision on appeal.1

The future looks bleak for Smith, but there is one last litigation option.2 The fleeing driver bumped into a fire hydrant right after the accident, lacerating his leg. The cut oozed blood onto the hydrant before the perpetrator staggered off. Further assume that Johnson witnessed this sequence of events and that crime scene investigators retrieved the blood. Serology tests indicated that the sample came from someone with Type O blood, which matched Smith’s blood type as well as that of a large percentage of the population. Because of miscommunication, police detectives neglected to examine Smith later that night for leg wounds. Nevertheless, this blood evidence comprised a brick in the wall of the case against Smith at trial. Removing this brick could send the whole case crashing down. To date, the biological evidence has never been subjected to DNA testing, a circumstance Smith would love to change.

Several obstacles loom. Smith has to either convince prosecutors to agree to post-conviction DNA testing or seek recourse through litigation to demand compliance from the state. Smith also has to find out whether the biological evidence from his case still exists. If Smith clears these hurdles, the subsequent DNA test might solve the mystery of who committed the crime once and for all.

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