Concerned that a series of wrongful convictions are eroding public confidence in Massachusetts’ criminal justice system, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly and the state’s 11 district attorneys said they are studying why such miscarriages of justice occur and how to prevent them, reports the Boston Globe. The “Justice Initiative” project is expected to result in recommendations from a panel of four district attorneys within 90 days. The suggestions are likely to include improved eyewitness identification procedures, a new state police crime lab to handle increased DNA testing, an overhaul of the troubled state medical examiner’s office, and compensation to people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
The prosecutors oppose two recommendations by advocates for exonerated defendants: required tape-recording of all police interrogations before suspects’ statements can be admitted into evidence and the establishment of an independent “innocence commission” that would analyze wrongful convictions.
The prosecutors’ announcement came amid rising concerns about wrongful convictions. Last week, Laurence Adams was released from prison after a Superior Court judge concluded that someone else had killed James Corry, a porter, in 1972. Adams, who spent 30 years behind bars, including time on death row as the last man sentenced to execution before Massachusetts abandoned the death penalty in 1975, is the ninth man successfully to challenge a conviction in Suffolk County since 1997. In the past 22 years, 23 prisoners statewide have been freed based on new evidence that they were wrongly convicted, including DNA, says the New England Innocence Project.