Thursday, March 30, 2006

If The Price Is Right

Most people will go along with changing the penal system that is obviously not working
.The Cost Of Errant Justice: "n his last days in office as Virginia's governor, Mark Warner took unprecedented action to deal with the problem. He ordered thousands of decades-old cases involving DNA evidence to be reopened following the discovery of files containing meticulously preserved samples of blood, semen and saliva, ready for retesting using technology that had not been available when the evidence was originally collected. DNA analysis of evidence in a small sample of these cases induced Warner to pardon two inmates wrongfully convicted of rape. This work to expose and correct errors of justice -- and to validate the accuracy of other old cases -- may prove to be Warner's greatest legacy, not only to Virginia but to the nation's criminal justice system.

Some errors of justice are inevitable, but we could manage them much more effectively than we do. Sophisticated systems are in place to manage mistakes in other fields: scientific research and production processes, for example, or to balance the risk of loss against the yield in financial portfolios. And yet no such systems exist with regard to the vitally important business of determining guilt or innocence in criminal cases.

This can be fixed. The use of modern management methods and more widespread availability of effective forensic technology could go a long way to solve more of these crimes and reduce both types of error. DNA evidence gives us a unique window into errors for those crimes for which the evidence is available and relevant. We can use this window to estimate rates of errors for those crimes. We can do more to assess the social costs of both wrongful convictions and nonconvictions for each major crime category: The costs to the community of failures to convict serial rapists and one-time shoplifters are clearly in different leagues. We can learn more about the relationships between police and prosecution policies and errors of justice. And in old, settled cases with valid DNA evidence, as in Virginia, we may be able to find further errors of justice and correct them. Better late than never."
Not enough to run for President, but then lately who has?

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