IL State Attorney Calls DNA Match “Red Herring” & Other National News

From Susan with the Florida Innocence Project.

Two cases, ten defendants, and 20 years locked up for someone else’s crime. The Chicago Tribune (Steve Mills) reports that, in both of these two 1990s Cook County, Illinois rape/murder cases, DNA evidence existed right from the start to exonerate the accused. However, false confessions that were quickly recanted contributed to wrongful convictions and the false imprisonment of the accused. Many of these men are still behind bars because the office of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is “downplaying” new DNA evidence identifying someone else.

Recently uncovered DNA evidence in both cases pointed to men whose names or records were already in the criminal justice system for similar crimes (including one who was a suspected serial killer).

Prosecutors initially opposed the new round of DNA testing, as well as entering the results in a national law enforcement databank to check for matches. Alvarez dropped the opposition after inquiries from the Tribune, but the office downplayed the importance of any DNA match, saying in court papers it would be a “red herring.” is demanding immediate action by Illinois State officials according to Rashad Robinson at Jack and Jill Politics. We will update information as it becomes available on both cases.

Inmate who claims innocence wonders what he has to do to gain parole. Ron Sylvester in the Wichita Eagle details Ronnie Rhodes predicament after being denied parole for the eighth time for a 1981 murder he claims he did not commit. Evidence that could have been DNA tested has disappeared from Wichita police custody. Despite work done by students at the Washburn School of Law questioning reliability of eyewitness testimony and the quality of Rhodes’s legal representation as well as 20 letters supporting granting him parole, The Prisoner Review Board once again said “no”.

Rhodes who has been in prison for 30 years said, “It’s like every time, they come up with new reasons for turning me down. It’s frustrating.”

The review board declined comment.

Now it’s the law in California. Defendants cannot be convicted solely on testimony proffered by jailhouse informants reports Bob Egelko in SFGATE.

SB687 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, applies to cases in which an inmate, often in exchange for leniency, testifies that a cellmate confessed to a crime. The bill, effective next year, will require

prosecutors to corroborate that testimony.

Leno praised Governor Jerry Brown for signing this legislation into law. Similar laws exist in 17 other states. Leno noted, “Without the safeguards created in this legislation, the potential for the miscarriage of justice when informant testimony is involved is just too high.”

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