Entries tagged with “DNA Testing

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Recent Legislative Activity

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Mar 30, 2020

After Unanimous House Passage, Florida Senate Fails to Enact DNA Reforms

After receiv­ing unan­i­mous sup­port in the Florida House of Representatives, a bill that would have expand­ed access to post­con­vic­tion DNA test­ing failed in the Florida Senate when the leg­isla­tive body adjourned its 2020 leg­isla­tive ses­sion with­out tak­ing up the bill.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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United States Supreme Court

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Aug 03, 2022

Amicus Groups Ask Supreme Court to Overturn Texas Appeals Court Refusal to Grant New Trial to Death-Row Prisoner Convicted Based on DNA Testimony Prosecutor and Trial Court Agree Was False

Three groups of fair jus­tice advo­cates have filed friend-of-the-court briefs ask­ing the U.S. Supreme Court to review and over­turn a Texas appeals court rul­ing that denied a new tri­al to a death-row pris­on­er who pros­e­cu­tors and the tri­al court agree was con­vict­ed based on false DNA tes­ti­mo­ny by a dis­graced police crime lab.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Clemency

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Jun 25, 2018

Board Appointed By Resigned Missouri Governor to Review Death-Row Prisoner’s Case

A Board of Inquiry appoint­ed by for­mer Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens will con­vene on August 22, 2018 to con­sid­er the fate of Marcellus Williams (pic­tured), one year to the day after Williams received a last-minute reprieve from exe­cu­tion based on evi­dence of his innocence.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jun 01, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Orders Investigation into Kevin Cooper Capital Murder Conviction

California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion into the case of Kevin Cooper, who has con­sis­tent­ly main­tained his inno­cence in the 1983 quadru­ple-mur­der for which he was sen­tenced to death. Newsom’s May 28, 2021 exec­u­tive order appoints the law firm Morrison and Foerster, LLP as Special Counsel to the California Board of Parole Hearings and directs the firm to con­duct a full review of the tri­al and appel­late records in [Cooper’s] case and of the facts under­ly­ing the conviction.”

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Representation

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Lethal Injection

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Mar 01, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of February 222021

NEWS (2/​25/​21) — Alabama: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has denied habeas relief for Alabama death-row pris­on­er Charles Clark, who the tri­al court had sen­tenced to death based upon a non-unan­i­mous jury sen­tenc­ing vote. Clark had argued that the tri­al court improp­er­ly ordered that he be shack­led dur­ing the tri­al, with­out an ade­quate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and with­out plac­ing the rea­sons for shack­ling him on the record. His tri­al coun­sel had waived the claim by fail­ing to object and Clark argued that this fail­ure con­sti­tut­ed inef­fec­tive assis­tance of…

Policy Issues

Representation

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United States Supreme Court

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Lethal Injection

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Federal Death Penalty

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Jun 19, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of June 152020

NEWS (6/​19/​20) — California: In one of the few cap­i­tal tri­als to move for­ward dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, a San Jose jury acquit­ted Manuel Anthony Lopez of charges that he had raped and mur­dered his girlfriend’s two-year-old son. Lopez, who had been jailed four years await­ing tri­al, had con­sis­tent­ly pro­fessed his inno­cence, and news reports said his lead defense coun­sel, Santa Clara County deputy pub­lic defend­er Michael Ogul, believed so strong­ly in Lopez’s inno­cence that he post­poned his retire­ment two years to be able to see the case to its…

May 17, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of May 102021

NEWS (5/​14/​21) — North Carolina: A Rowan County tri­al judge has resen­tenced William Barnes to con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences for the mur­ders of an elder­ly North Carolina cou­ple in 1992, after the coun­ty dis­trict attorney’s office declined to pur­sue a new cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing hear­ing. The dis­trict attorney’s deci­sion, made with the agree­ment of the vic­tims’ fam­i­ly, fol­lowed a fed­er­al appeals court rul­ing that had over­turned Barnes’ death sen­tences because of juror misconduct.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Sep 21, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of September 142020

NEWS (9/​17/​20) — Florida: The Florida Supreme Court has denied post-con­vic­tion relief to Ken Lott, retroac­tive­ly apply­ing its new rule that a death sen­tence imposed under the state’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al judi­cial fact-find­ing statute did not vio­late Lott’s right to a jury tri­al because the jury had unan­i­mous­ly found an aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stance. The court held that Lott’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury tri­al in his cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing pro­ceed­ing extend­ed only to the deter­mi­na­tion of whether the defen­dant was eli­gi­ble for the death penal­ty, not whether aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances out­weighed rea­sons to spare…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Race

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Upcoming Executions

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Nov 09, 2020

Citing COVID-19, Governor Grants Reprieve to Tennessee Death-Row Prisoner Pervis Payne

Citing the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has grant­ed a tem­po­rary reprieve to death-row pris­on­er Pervis Payne, halt­ing his sched­uled December 3, 2020 exe­cu­tion. The exe­cu­tion was the last sched­uled by any state in 2020, assur­ing that states will car­ry out few­er exe­cu­tions in 2020 than in any oth­er year since 1983.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Race

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Clemency

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Recent Legislative Activity

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Apr 02, 2021

Clemency Efforts for Pervis Payne Gain Widespread Support as Execution Reprieve Set to Expire

Clemency efforts on behalf of Tennessee death-row pris­on­er Pervis Payne (pic­tured) are surg­ing, as a peti­tion on his behalf by The Innocence Project had col­lect­ed more than 600,000 sig­na­tures by March 26, 2021 and social media cam­paigns sup­port­ing his cause con­tin­ue to attract increas­ing atten­tion worldwide.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 28, 2021

Death-Row Exonerees in Ohio, Oklahoma Receive Million Dollar Payments for Their Wrongful Convictions

Two men exon­er­at­ed from death row, one in Ohio and one in Oklahoma, have received mil­lion ‑dol­lar pay­outs for their wrong­ful con­vic­tions and death sen­tences. Both were tried and con­vict­ed in coun­ties with long his­to­ries of pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al mis­con­duct and high rates of wrong­ful cap­i­tal con­vic­tions. The com­pen­sa­tion comes more than a decade after each was released from incarceration.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Race

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Jan 22, 2021

Defense Lawyers Say DNA Tests Point to Unknown Male’ as Likely Killer in Tennessee Death-Row Prisoner Pervis Payne’s Case

Lawyers for Tennessee death-row pris­on­er Pervis Payne say DNA test­ing in his 30-year-old case points to an unknown male” and excludes Payne as the per­son who stabbed to death Charisse Christopher and her 2‑year-old daugh­ter, Lacie, and seri­ous­ly wound­ed her 3‑year-old son, Nicholas.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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Upcoming Executions

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Jul 24, 2020

Defense Seeks DNA Testing for Pervis Payne, Alleging Racism, Hidden Evidence, and Intellectual Disability Led to Wrongful Conviction

The Innocence Project and fed­er­al defend­ers have filed a motion in a Shelby County, Tennessee tri­al court seek­ing DNA test­ing of phys­i­cal evi­dence hid­den by pros­e­cu­tors for 30 years that they believe will exon­er­ate death-row pris­on­er Pervis Payne (pic­tured). Payne, who is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on December 3, 2020, has stead­fast­ly denied com­mit­ting the crime. The lawyers argue that his con­vic­tion and death sen­tence are the com­bined prod­uct of racial bias by a prosecutor’s office with an exten­sive his­to­ry of mis­con­duct and Payne’s intel­lec­tu­al disability.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jul 29, 2021

DNA Exonerates Georgia Man Who Had Waived His Appeals to Avoid Wrongful Execution

When Dennis Perry stood with his defense team on the steps of the Brunswick, Georgia cour­t­house (pic­tured) after a tri­al judge dis­missed all charges against him, he was a free man, exon­er­at­ed of the racial­ly moti­vat­ed mur­ders of a dea­con and his wife in a local Black church in 1985. His case was one of at least four death-penal­ty pros­e­cu­tions involv­ing mis­con­duct by Brunswick Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III. And it was the lat­est of more than 30 exon­er­a­tions across the coun­try since January 2019 in…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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DPIC Reports

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Feb 18, 2021

DPIC Adds Eleven Cases to Innocence List, Bringing National Death-Row Exoneration Total to 185

New research by the Death Penalty Information Center has found 11 pre­vi­ous­ly unrecord­ed death-row exon­er­a­tions, bring­ing the total num­ber of peo­ple exon­er­at­ed after being wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death to 185. The data now show that for every 8.3 peo­ple who have been put to death in the U.S. since exe­cu­tions resumed in the 1970s, one per­son who had been wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death has been exon­er­at­ed. Wrongful cap­i­tal con­vic­tions occurred in vir­tu­al­ly every part of the coun­try, with exon­er­a­tions doc­u­ment­ed in 29 states and 118 different…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Representation

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New Voices

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Feb 17, 2020

Exoneree Ryan Matthews Calls for Ending Louisiana’s Death Penalty: I Know Capital Punishment Doesn’t Work”

DNA exon­er­at­ed Ryan Matthews in 2004, after he had spent five years on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for a mur­der he did not com­mit. In December 2019, he received his col­lege degree. I’m so used to obsta­cles get­ting in my way,” Matthews, told Nola​.com. But that won’t stop me. When one door shuts, I work to get anoth­er one to open.”

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Apr 05, 2021

Federal Court Approves DNA Testing for Man Who Was Spared Execution by Texas’s Refusal to Allow Religious Adviser in Execution Chamber

A fed­er­al dis­trict court has ruled that Texas uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly denied DNA test­ing to a death-row pris­on­er who is alive today only because of a last-minute stay of exe­cu­tion grant­ed because the state refused to allow his reli­gious advis­er to accom­pa­ny him in the exe­cu­tion cham­ber. In a 26-page rul­ing issued on March 23, 2021, Judge Hilda Tagle of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas paved the way for Ruben Gutierrez (pic­tured) to obtain DNA test­ing that he argues will prove his inno­cence of the death penalty.…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jun 28, 2023

First Death Row Exoneration Involving DNA Evidence Happened 30 Years Ago

June 28, 2023 marks the 30th anniver­sary of the exon­er­a­tion of Kirk Bloodsworth (pic­tured), the first per­son exon­er­at­ed from death row with DNA evi­dence. In the three decades since he was exon­er­at­ed from Maryland’s death row, Mr. Bloodsworth has been a vocal advo­cate for crim­i­nal jus­tice reform. He played an essen­tial role in end­ing the death penal­ty in Maryland in 2013 and served as direc­tor of Witness to Innocence, an orga­ni­za­tion of death row exonerees.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Oct 31, 2022

Florida Trial Court Conditionally Approves DNA Testing for Tommy Ziegler in 46-Year-Old Death Penalty Case

In what the Tampa Bay Times described as an epic turn­around” in a 46-year-old cap­i­tal case, a Florida tri­al judge is poised to order DNA test­ing of evi­dence death-row pris­on­er Tommy Zeigler has long assert­ed will prove him inno­cent of the quadru­ple mur­der for which he was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death in 1975.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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May 11, 2021

Forensic Testing Casts New Doubt on Guilt of Ledell Lee, Executed in Arkansas in 2017

Posthumous foren­sic test­ing of evi­dence in the case of Ledell Lee (pic­tured), who was exe­cut­ed in Arkansas in 2017, has found DNA from an uniden­ti­fied male on a bloody club used to kill Debra Reese 29 years ago and on a blood-soaked shirt that was wrapped around the weapon. The DNA results, released by the Innocence Project and the ACLU on April 30, 2021, raise addi­tion­al trou­bling ques­tions about Lee’s conviction.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Upcoming Executions

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Executions Overview

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Jan 13, 2020

Georgia Set to Execute Man Jurors Would Have Sentenced to Life Without Parole

On January 16, Georgia plans to exe­cute Jimmy Meders (pic­tured in his National Guard uni­form), a man whom jurors say they would have sen­tenced to life with­out parole if that option had been avail­able and who, state sen­tenc­ing prac­tices sug­gest, would not face the death penal­ty today. For those rea­sons, Meders’ lawyers say in court plead­ings and an appli­ca­tion before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, his exe­cu­tion would vio­late con­tem­po­rary stan­dards of decen­cy and he should be grant­ed clemency.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Mar 16, 2020

Georgia Supreme Court Votes 9 – 0 for New Trial for Former Death-Row Prisoner Johnny Gates

More than forty years after he was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death by an all-white Columbus, Georgia jury for the rape and mur­der of a 19-year-old white woman, Johnny Lee Gates (pic­tured) will be get­ting a new tri­al. On March 13, 2020, the Georgia Supreme Court unan­i­mous­ly held that DNA con­tained on phys­i­cal evi­dence that police and pros­e­cu­tors had with­held for decades raised sig­nif­i­cant doubt” as to Gates’ guilt.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jan 29, 2020

Lawsuit Seeks DNA and Fingerprint Testing that Could Show Arkansas Executed an Innocent Man

In its unprece­dent­ed rush to exe­cute eight pris­on­ers over an eleven-day peri­od in April 2017, Arkansas may have exe­cut­ed an inno­cent man. Civil rights and legal reform orga­ni­za­tions filed a state Freedom of Information Act law­suit on January 23, 2020 on behalf of the broth­er of Ledell Lee (pic­tured), a man Arkansas exe­cut­ed on April 20, 2017. The law­suit argues that DNA and fin­ger­print evi­dence that courts blocked the defense from test­ing in the days lead­ing up to his exe­cu­tion can prove what Lee had argued since the time of…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jul 15, 2022

Mississippi Supreme Court Denies Additional DNA Testing to Death-Row Prisoner

The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied addi­tion­al DNA test­ing to death-row pris­on­er Willie Manning (pic­tured). Manning, who was sen­tenced to death in Oktibbeha County in 1994 and in 1996 for two sep­a­rate crimes, has main­tained his inno­cence of both crimes. He was exon­er­at­ed of the 1996 con­vic­tion in 2015 after police and pros­e­cu­tors unlaw­ful­ly with­held excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence from the defense.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Clemency

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Aug 31, 2022

Missouri Governor Silent on Marcellus Williams’ Case 5 Years After Execution Halted for Board of Inquiry Innocence Review

Five years after for­mer Gov. Eric Greitens issued an exe­cu­tion-day reprieve for a Board of Inquiry to address ques­tions of inno­cence, Marcellus Williams remains on Missouris death row. Though the board pre­sent­ed its rec­om­men­da­tions more than a year ago, cur­rent Gov. Mike Parson has tak­en no action on the case.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Clemency

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Aug 22, 2017

Missouri Governor Stays Execution of Marcellus Williams to Consider Evidence of Innocence

Calling a sen­tence of death the ulti­mate, per­ma­nent pun­ish­ment,” Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (pic­tured) has stayed the exe­cu­tion of Marcellus Williams in light of new infor­ma­tion” that Williams’s lawyers say demon­strate he is inno­cent of the mur­der of for­mer St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felisha Gayle.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Mar 10, 2020

Paul Hildwin Released from Florida Prison 34 Years After Being Sentenced to Death

Paul Hildwin, whose death sen­tence was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989 in a deci­sion it over­ruled 26 years lat­er, has been released from prison in Florida after spend­ing near­ly 34 years incar­cer­at­ed for a mur­der DNA evi­dence now shows he did not commit.

Oct 18, 2023

Prosecutors Refusal to Test DNA Evidence Forces Oklahoma Death-Sentenced Prisoner Set for Execution to File Federal Lawsuit

On October 4, 2023, Phillip Hancock, an Oklahoma death-sen­tenced pris­on­er sched­uled for exe­cu­tion on November 30, filed a Section 1983 law­suit in fed­er­al court request­ing the release of phys­i­cal evi­dence for DNA test­ing to sup­port his long-main­tained claim of self-defense. The State has repeat­ed­ly opposed his efforts to test the evi­dence and Oklahoma state courts have also repeat­ed­ly denied his requests. 

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 30, 2021

Sherwood Brown Exonerated in Mississippi, 186th Death-Row Exoneration Since 1973

Sherwood Brown has been exon­er­at­ed of the charges that sent him to death row in Mississippi in 1995 for a triple mur­der he did not com­mit. On August 24, 2021, DeSoto County Circuit Court Judge Jimmy McClure grant­ed a pros­e­cu­tion motion to dis­miss charges against Brown (pic­tured after his release), who was released lat­er that day after hav­ing spent 26 years on the state’s death row or fac­ing the prospects of a cap­i­tal retrial.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Feb 07, 2020

States Continue to Oppose DNA Testing in Death Penalty Appeals, Attorneys Ask Why Don’t They Want to Learn the Truth?

The last three men sched­uled for exe­cu­tion in Georgia said they did not com­mit the killing and that DNA test­ing that was not avail­able at the time of tri­al could prove it. In two of the cas­es, vic­tim fam­i­ly mem­bers sup­port­ed the request for test­ing. Prosecutors opposed the requests, and the courts refused to allow the test­ing. Two of the three men were exe­cut­ed, with doubts still swirling as to their guilt.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Oct 25, 2016

Supported by New DNA Evidence, Man Sentenced to Death in Virginia in 1970 Files Innocence Claim

Sherman Brown (pic­tured), a man who was sen­tenced to death in Virginia in 1970 for the mur­der of a 4‑year-old boy, has filed a writ of actu­al inno­cence with the Virginia Supreme Court say­ing that DNA test­ing on recent­ly dis­cov­ered evi­dence clears him of the crime. Brown’s peti­tion states: Recent DNA test­ing demon­strates by clear and con­vinc­ing evi­dence what I have main­tained for over 45 years: that I am inno­cent of this crime. The evi­dence against me at tri­al was deeply flawed.”

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Apr 20, 2023

Supreme Court (6 – 3) Allows Death Row Prisoner’s Bid for DNA Testing to Proceed

On April 19, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (6 – 3) in Reed v. Goertz that a Texas death row pris­on­er could con­tin­ue his pur­suit of DNA test­ing that a low­er court had blocked. The Court held that Rodney Reed’s (pic­tured) civ­il rights claim was filed in fed­er­al court in a time­ly way.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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May 05, 2022

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case of Texas Death Row Prisoner Rodney Reed

In a case legal experts say could redress a mis­car­riage of jus­tice or insti­tu­tion­al­ize it, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the Texas fed­er­al courts’ refusal to per­mit DNA test­ing of crime-scene evi­dence that could poten­tial­ly exon­er­ate death-row pris­on­er Rodney Reed.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Oct 12, 2022

Supreme Court Hears Argument on Deadline for Texas Death-Row Prisoner to Challenge State Court’s Denial of DNA Testing

The U.S. Supreme Court heard argu­ment on October 11, 2022 on whether a Texas death-row pris­on­er was time-barred from obtain­ing fed­er­al review of the state’s refusal to grant him DNA test­ing that could prove his inno­cence because he wait­ed for the state appeals process to fin­ish before fil­ing his fed­er­al lawsuit.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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United States Supreme Court

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Jan 13, 2023

Supreme Court Reverses Texas Court Decision Based on Prosecutor’s Admission About Flawed Forensic Evidence

The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the denial of relief to a Texas death-row pris­on­er whose request for new tri­al is sup­port­ed by local pros­e­cu­tors. In a two-sen­tence deci­sion, the Court grant­ed cer­tio­rari to Areli Escobar, vacat­ed the judg­ment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA), and sent the case back for recon­sid­er­a­tion. The Court’s sum­ma­ry rever­sal relied on Travis County pros­e­cu­tors’ admis­sion that Escobar’s con­vic­tion is based on flawed and mis­lead­ing foren­sic evidence.”