Author and contributing editor to the Wrongful Convictions Blog Nancy Petro wrote a great article on the progress toward improving our criminal justice system made in 2012. She highlighted ten notable advances:
1. Twenty-two exonerations were won in 2012 according to the annual report by the Innocence Network.
2. The National Registry of Exonerations launched May 21, 2012 has raised awareness on the scope of wrongful convictions by providing a searchable, up-to-date database on exonerations.
3. The Wrongful Convictions Blog provides an international forum for news about issues surrounding wrongful convictions around the world.
4. The Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition (made up of the Northern California Innocence Project and its policy-arm the Veritas Initiative, the New-York based Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of New Orleans and Voices of Innocence) held a six-state tour highlighting prosecutorial misconduct and elevated the discussion on accountability nationwide.
5. Texas launched a rare inquiry that could result in former prosecutor and current district judge Ken Anderson being criminally charged for his role in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.
6. New innocence clinics planned and established in the United States and internationally. New projects were established in the Philippines and Chile joining other international projects in the United Kingdom, Australia and The Netherlands.
7. In July 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued new guidelines regarding eyewitness identification testimony stating that juries must be told that many different factors can affect the accuracy of identifications and memory.
8. The growing public awareness of wrongful conviction played a role in the 2012 election cycle where district attorneys had to answer for their views on wrongful conviction and prosecutorial accountability.
9. The Virginia Department of Forensic Science began testing hundreds of old rape and homicide case DNA evidence resulting in the exoneration of 38 people so far.
10. New understanding in forensic science, especially in the areas of arson and shaken baby syndrome, have drawn attention to potential wrongful convictions based on bad scientific evidence.
While many innocent people still await justice, these advances give us hope that we are moving toward a more fair, honest and transparent criminal justice system. Reforms and best practices are slowly but surely being enacted and the awareness of wrongful convictions keeps rising. Let’s hope that 2013 will see even more progress toward the elimination of wrongful conviction.
Read Nancy Petro’s full article here.