Guilty Convicts Abuse DNA Test Requests: Justice

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Guilty convicts who know they won’t be exonerated are joining the innocent to ask courts and prosecutors to order DNA tests, asserts the U.S. Justice Department. DNA tests for the guilty are tying up crime labs and re-traumatizing the victims of rapes and other violent crimes, often years after the crimes occurred, the department says, according to USA Today. “The creation of a new post-conviction (DNA testing) remedy can readily result in abuse by convicted criminals,” wrote William Moschella, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. The convicts want to “game the system or retaliate against the victims of their crimes,” he said.

Moschella offered no statistics. He cited St. Louis, where beginning in 2001, prosecutors ordered tests on evidence from rapes dating back nearly 20 years. They found that DNA from crime scenes matched five men who had been convicted of the crimes, though it exonerated two other convicts. The testing required rape victims, some now elderly, to give DNA samples and to answer questions about their sex lives. Some sobbed and collapsed, while others grew despondent. One victim fled the city.

The Justice Department opposes a bill that would make it easier for federal convicts to petition courts for DNA tests to challenge their convictions. The bill, which also would authorize more than $1 billion in spending on DNA-based crime fighting programs, passed the House last year and is before the Senate.

Since 1989, 143 state convicts have been exonerated after DNA tests cast doubt on their convictions, says the Innocence Project of New York City. In response, 34 states have made it easier for convicts to petition courts for DNA testing. At issue in the federal legislation is whether a convict seeking a test must show that it would prove innocence or only that it would have created reasonable doubt in a jury’s mind.

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20040513/6198432s.htm

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