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Post-conviction focus: when new technology undercuts trial testimony

Our immediately preceding blog post (please see our March 22 entry) chronicled the work of researchers who have identified factors that commonly contribute to the wrongful convictions of innocent persons.

A recent news story that has broad applicability across the country for persons suffering erroneous convictions, including in Missouri, highlights one area of concern that is certainly growing in the criminal justice system and begs this central question focused on fundamental fairness: What happens when evidence that is used to convict a defendant is discovered to be flawed following a jury's guilty verdict?

That is far from a rhetorical inquiry, given the steady stream of stories emerging that tell tales of forensic evidence that is used to wrongly convict innocent persons across a wide spectrum of criminal charges. Those charges range from murder and other violent crimes to white collar crimes, Internet crimes such as child pornography and a number of other offenses.

A story from California that has surfaced nationally well illustrates the problem. A defendant there was convicted of murder based on the evidence of a dentist that identified the man's teeth marks on the victim, his wife.

The problem: The testimony was simply wrong, rebutted years later by the witness himself after he had the chance to look at the evidence anew from the vantage point of new technology that proved its falsity.

The man's case continues through the courts, with his attorneys seeking a reversal of his conviction in federal court.

Forensic evidence is often at the core of and critically important in criminal cases, with the sophisticated and zealous advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney often making a material difference in the outcome of a charge.

Source: NPR, ""Forensic advances raise new questions about old convictions," Emily Green, March 20, 2013

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