Exonerations Lead Virginia Governor to Call for Sweeping DNA Review

The release of two Virginia men who were exonerated after the state conducted new DNA testing on evidence from 31 cases has prompted Governor Mark Warner (pictured) to call for a more sweeping review of the state's stored biological evidence. Warner has ordered 660 boxes containing thousands of files from 1973 through 1988 to be examined for cases that can be retested using the latest DNA technology.

"I believe a look back at these retained case files is the only morally acceptable course, and what truth they can bring only bolsters confidence in our system," Warner said. Virginia's review marks one of the first instances in which a governor has ordered a broad examination of DNA cases. Virginia, which has executed more people than any state except Texas since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, has had the accuracy of its justice system called into question after several high-profile innocence cases.

"This is a 7 percent innocence rate -- among people who never even asked for testing -- that should give pause to people who think mistakes in our criminal justice system are flukes. This should be a beacon for other governors across the country to implement post-conviction DNA testing," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York-base Innocence Project.

(The Washington Post, December 15, 2005). See Innocence.