DNA tests show scale of bad convictions

By ZINIE CHEN SAMPSON and DENA POTTER
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. – New DNA testing in hundreds of old Virginia homicide and sexual assault cases supports the exoneration of at least 38 suspects, according to a study released Monday by a national policy group that examined the test results.

The Urban Institute’s study is the first to say how many exonerations are likely from Virginia’s stash of archived, decades-old biological samples that so far have cleared at least five men who were convicted of sexual assaults. Officials with the state Department of Forensic Science, which is conducting the testing project, have said their job is not to suggest who should be exonerated, but to test the samples and deliver the results to law enforcement officials who determine whether they believe someone is innocent.

The institute’s researchers found that in 5 percent of homicide and sexual assault cases, DNA testing ruled out the convicted person. If the scope is narrowed to just the sexual assault convictions, DNA testing eliminated between 8 percent and 15 percent of convicted offenders. The wrongful conviction rate previously had been estimated at 3 percent or less.

Although all of these tests were done on Virginia cases, a lead researcher said the results likely could be applied elsewhere.

http://www.wtop.com/41/2908362/Study-DNA-tests-show-scale-of-bad-convictions-#.T-IRHF8R1t4.blogger

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