Virginia Lags In Exonerating Convicts Via DNA Evidence


Bennett Barbour, who was convicted in 1978 in Virginia of a rape he didn’t commit, is one of only a handful who have enjoyed vindication, says Years ago, Virginia authorities realized they were likely convicting innocent men. At least dozens, maybe more, might be exonerated using DNA tests. The state did not move quickly to suspend these sentences or contact the individuals or families involved.

They did not publicize their findings. Indeed, they denied Freedom of Information Act requests that would have shed light on the problem. Rather, Virginia officials appear to have devised a system of notifying current and former convicts that is almost guaranteed to lead to the fewest number of exonerations. In 2004, then-Gov. Mark Warner ordered a random audit of 31 cases, which led to two exonerations. He then ordered that every DNA sample obtained between 1973 and 1988 be rechecked. Now in its 7th year, the project has cost $5 million. The Richmond Times-Dispatch says the state located about 800 DNA samples, that have excluded more than 70 people as perpetrators of a crime.

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