DNA testing is “uncovering a dark history of justice denied,” the New York Times says in an editorial. More than 190 DNA exonerations in 18 years show alarming patterns of citizens, wrongly convicted, suffering in prison. New York and Texas are the leading states in yielding hard-fought exonerations. The victories are won by dedicated pro bono lawyers, not by state monitors charged with finding injustice.
The Times believes that New York and Texas should create “innocence commissions”–independent investigative bodies of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, police officers, and forensic scientists who re-examine case facts after prisoners are exonerated using DNA evidence. The idea is to identify the causes of the wrongful convictions and propose changes to improve the state of justice. Calls to create commissions in New York and Texas are bogged down in statehouse politics, even as a half-dozen other states are poised to create their own monitors. No one knows the depth of injustice hinted at by DNA exonerations, says the Times, “but it is clear that they demand organized oversight and serious reforms of the criminal justice system.”