Elizabeth Ramirez walked out of prison last month thanks partly to a new Texas law that allows inmates to challenge faulty forensic science used in their prosecution, reports USA Today. Ramirez, 39, is one of the “San Antonio Four,” women convicted more than a decade ago amid child abuse charges and allegations of Satanic ritual abuse. All have been released. They are part of a trend of inmates who believe they were wrongly convicted challenging forensic science. Glamorized by TV shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, techniques long believed irrefutable — hair and fiber matching, arson investigations, even fingerprinting — are being challenged in court.
This year, the Justice Department announced the creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science to investigate the techniques. Texas, home to one of the nation’s toughest penal codes and the leader in executions, is at the forefront of the effort, said Stephen Saloom of the New York-based Innocence Project. Of the 311 DNA exonerations that the group has tallied since 1989, about half involved faulty forensic science. “This is not just a Texas problem. This is happening all over the country,” he said. “Texas just happens to be a leader in its willingness to reconsider convictions based on such evidence.”