1 July 2010

A Simple Tale of DNA Justice

There’s been a lot of debate about DNA databases and DNA testing. If you were in any doubt about it, read this, in particular the first paragraph uttered by the judge in a US appeals court.
‘May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face and may the rain fall softly upon your fields. May God hold you in the palm of his hand, now and forever.’
Wiping tears from her face, the judge stepped forward to shake the hand of a man known to the state of Ohio for more than quarter of a century as Inmate A16468. “Good luck to you, Mr Towler,” she said. “You’re free.”
Despite pleading not guilty and offering a rock-solid alibi, Mr Towler was sentenced to life without parole on the basis of a Cleveland police officer’s suspicion during a routine traffic stop that he resembled the man sought for a rape that had occurred two weeks earlier. He was later picked out by the victim from an identity parade.
It was only when a much sought-after (by his lawyer) and newly developed DNA test, performed 25 years after he was incarcerated proved that he was not the perpetrator, that Towler was freed.
Mr Towler’s case is not unique, but the way it ended was uniquely moving. It may serve to galvanise a national movement of lawyers and activists who have used DNA evidence to free more than 250 inmates since 1992, almost all of them black men
Under state law, Mr Towler is entitled to $40,330 (£27,350) for every year of his wrongful imprisonment, not including lost wages and any damages he may win by suing the Ohio Department of Corrections.
I hope he sues them for every penny he can get and then gives some to DNA research. 

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