|After reading this article, I think the Senator needs
to be contacted by people from around the world by email, telephone, faxes,
letters and/or letters to the editors of your local newspapers to let "your"
voice be heard, don't you? If you are lost for words, you can always
use the stats listed in the article below to belie the Senator's notion
that proper funding for DNA testing in cases of wrongful convictions is
not what it seems to be and therefore unimportant. Well, unless you
prefer his spin-doctoring to take hold as truth.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions is concerned about portions of a $1.2 billion bill to help forensics labs process evidence in serious crimes. However, the Alabama Republican's intemperate language about the bill undermines his arguments.
Four years ago, Sessions, a former prosecutor, led efforts to increase federal funding for forensics labs. Yet he's upset that a bill expected to be considered today in the Senate Judiciary Committee puts too much emphasis on DNA testing. He complains that it would offer no help for state forensics labs backlogged on other kinds of work, such as drug tests.
A provision of the bill that provides money to states to secure qualified attorneys to work on DNA appeals came in for special criticism.
"This bill would take $100 million in federal taxpayer
funds and give it to anti-death penalty groups for the defense of murderers
That borders on a knee-jerk reaction. The fact is, DNA technology has seen the recent release of three men in less than a month who were wrongly convicted of rape in Southern states. They spent a total of 61 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Since 1992, DNA technology has helped determine the innocence of 151 people nationwide wrongly convicted of rapes and murders. They include 14 death row inmates, the most recently freed of who was a Louisiana man exonerated of a murder charge last month.
The bill in Congress, which has the ponderous title of "Advancing Justice through DNA Technology Act," would provide $755 million toward DNA resting on a backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other crime scene evidence.
Despite Sessions' argument that more money is needed for drug testing, the director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences says DNA tests are paramount. That's because they are central in cases involving violent crime.
There is a backlog of about 2,000 DNA tests in the state
labs, he said. Most of the work is for prosecutors -- another irony in
There is a strong moral argument to be made for shoring up DNA testing. We cannot in good conscience send people to their deaths when there is a possibility that DNA tests would prove their innocence.
If anything, DNA tests strengthen the argument for capital punishment, for they can be used to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that prosecutors use them far more than defense attorneys illustrates the point.
Unfortunately, if the bill passes it will not have a significant
impact for defendants in Alabama. Unlike virtually every other state in
That shortcoming is one of many reasons why the state needs to take a hard look at how it administers capital punishment.
In any event, the Congress needs to bolster DNA testing. Though the bill it is considering may not be perfect, its recognition that the tests are vital to the criminal justice system is long overdue.