As of December 14, 2010, there have been 261 exonerees according to The Innocence Project. 74 of the 261 cases are connected to defective or fraudulent forensic science. That is over 28%.
A new movie starring Hillary Swank in part exposes this phenomenon in Conviction. It chronicles the false conviction of Kenny Waters. From wikipedia:
The film is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, an unemployed single mother who, with the help of attorney Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project, exonerated her wrongfully convicted brother. In order to do this she earned her GED, then her bachelor’s, a master’s in education, and eventually a law degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. She accomplished this while raising two boys alone and working as a waitress part-time. While in law school, she began investigating her brother’s case.
Kenneth “Kenny” Waters, her brother, was convicted in 1983 of murdering Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts (the murder occurred in 1980). Betty Anne located biological evidence and then worked with the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to overturning wrongful convictions, to obtain DNA testing on the evidence—proving Waters’ innocence and leading to his exoneration on June 19, 2001. The film ends soon after he is freed.
IN real life, on March 16, 2001, he was freed on his on recognizance while the Government was considering re-trying him for the murder. The Government finally agreed that it would not re-try the case. In a tragic turn of events, Kenny succumbed due to injuries suffered from a fractured his skull when he fell from a 15-foot wall while taking a shortcut to his brother’s house after a dinner with his mother on September of 2001. But he was free as he should have been from the very beginning.
I suspect that a far greater number than 74 people are behind bars today due to bad or fraudulent forensic science.
Each and everyone of us has the moral responsibility to fight against wrongful convictions. Won’t you?