Friday, May 6, 2005

Report on Wrongful Convictions in Virginia

[RESEARCH] The Innocence Commission for Virginia has released a new report analyzing seven wrongful capital convictions and proposing reforms. A Vision for Justice: Report and Recommendations Regarding Wrongful Convictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia (March 2005).

According to the press release (March 30):

The ICVA is only the second innocence commission in the United States and the one of the first groups to study a state’s exoneration cases.

The eleven exonerated individuals spent a collective 118 years in prison before being pardoned by Virginia’s governor or released from prison after courts determined their innocence. It required many years, thousands of hours of legal assistance, and huge costs to taxpayers, to secure their release. Meanwhile, the actual perpetrators remained at large and, in some cases, committed additional crimes.

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Said former FBI Director and federal judge William S. Sessions, a member of ICVA’s Advisory Board, “The conviction of an innocent person has broad implications for the criminal justice system. Victims, who have a right to see their victimizers punished, suffer when the wrong person is convicted, then suffer again if the true perpetrator is apprehended and the victims must relive the crime through another trial. And the public’s faith in law enforcement officials and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system is diminished.”
Virginians spent over two million dollars to imprison these innocent men, whose wrongful convictions might have been prevented by the policy recommendations set forth in the ICVA’s report.

The report identifies common problems that led to these eleven wrongful convictions. It calls for reform and highlights measures in seven areas – eyewitness identification, interrogation, discovery, law enforcement investigation, scientific evidence, and defense practices – that would improve Virginia’s criminal justice system and offer the latest and best practices to law enforcement officers, courts, prosecutors, and defense counsel alike.

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The ICVA is sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, the Administration Justice Program at George Mason University, and the Constitution Project, part of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.
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