States required to provide adequate capital counsel, DNA testing Innocence Protection Act addresses root of wrongful convictions
Washington, DC (March 7, 2001) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers today announced its support for the Innocence Protection Act, which is expected to be reintroduced in Congress this afternoon. NACDL President Edward Mallett issued the following statement:
"DNA-based exonerations are just the tip of the unjust-conviction iceberg. The Innocence Protection Act goes beyond these glaring injustices to address the root of the problem.
"The American people have been amazed in the last two years that there are literally hundreds, even thousands, of innocent citizens in prison, many on death row. The Innocence Protection Act is constructive because it will permit the innocent to have DNA testing and defendants in death penalty cases to be better-defended.
"For every innocent inmate fortunate enough to have genetic material available for DNA testing, hundreds more are wrongly convicted in cases where there is no body-tissue evidence. Many are in prison because their counsel were not given the resources necessary to provide a thorough defense--to challenge eyewitness identification based on suggestive interviews, to expose sloppy or biased police investigation, or to track down exculpatory evidence withheld by the prosecution.
"The Act requires states to adopt fair procedures for post-conviction DNA testing, and that is important to a number of unjustly convicted people. But even more important are the provisions requiring adequate counsel in death penalty cases. When the deck is stacked against a defendant, a jury can often be convinced to make a mistake.
"Citizens are alarmed that our justice system is more fallible than we thought. Congress and the Bush Administration now have an opportunity to deal with this mounting crisis of public confidence."
Mallett is a criminal defense lawyer in Houston. He can be reached at (713)228-1521 or (713)444-8146 (cell).