News Release

Lab fraud found in case of inmate already executed NACDL president calls for discovery reform, death penalty moratorium

Washington, DC (August 21, 2001) -- In response to revelations of falsified testimony by forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist of the Oklahoma City Police Department forensic laboratory in the case of Malcolm Rent Johnson, who was executed in January, 2000, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Irwin Schwartz issued the following statement:

"The fact that there has not been conclusive proof, at least not yet, that this defendant was innocent does not change the fact that the exposure of this incident cries out for two major changes we must make, immediately, if we are to maintain confidence and conscience in our justice system:

"First, we must have a nationwide moratorium on implementation of the death penalty, until we can assure ourselves that those on death row were convicted fairly. The stream of lab fraud cases, in Oklahoma, California, Texas, New York, West Virginia, and in federal FBI labs shows that any conviction can turn out to be less solid that it seems. With more that 90 exonerated from death row since 1973, and more than 90 freed from prisons by DNA evidence in just the last few years, our sense of honor and fairness is at stake.

"Second, many of these incidents of falsified evidence would be uncovered if the federal government, and a number of states, would adopt fair discovery practices. The states that allow full and fair discovery have not experienced significant problems with the administration of justice, and they offer defendants a much better opportunity to mount a defense that prevents conviction by jury mistake." 

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.