Jennifer Joyce, chief prosecutor in St. Louis, is reinvestigating more than 1,400 old cases to see if DNA evidence would prove the guilt or innocence of the person convicted of the crime, the Associated Press reports. A probe of whether a man was executed in 1995 for a murder he didn’t commit could prove to be the first known U.S. execution of an innocent person.
Few prosecutors have gone so far as Joyce. “What she’s doing here is appropriate and not common enough,” said Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project. “Prosecutors sometimes believe it’s more important to win or to appear as though you don’t make mistakes.” So far, three St. Louis men convicted of rape have been exonerated, each after serving at least 17 years in prison. Joyce decided that many cases deserved a second look, but with caution. “I’ve seen victims become suicidal,” she said. “I’ve seen victims throw up, become extremely emotional at the thought of reopening cases. We have to be mindful of that.”