Justice in Indiana

JUSTICE IN INDIANA….Darnell Williams is on death row in Indiana, and his attorneys want to perform a DNA test to try and establish his innocence. Last week the Indiana Supreme Court said no:

The justices ruled that, in the context of his trial as a whole, the blood evidence Williams seeks to retest was not that important. Not so important, in any event, that his execution should be delayed.

Oops, did I say his attorneys? I meant the prosecuting attorney:

I strongly disagree. As the lawyer who prosecuted him, I saw and heard every bit of the trial, and I knew then ? and still think now ? that the blood evidence in question played a big role in his death sentence. For that reason, I joined his attorneys in asking for the DNA retest.

The resistance of the legal community to making DNA testing routine is simply astonishing. This man is on death row, both the defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorney agree that a DNA test ought to be performed on a piece of critical evidence, but the court won’t let them. It would probably take all of a week or two and cost a few thousand dollars.

Nor is there a chance that allowing this will open the floodgates for every prisoner in the state to demand DNA testing. After all, everyone knows that the tests are reliable and highly accurate, so there’s not much point in demanding a test if you know that you really are guilty.

DNA testing is routine in active cases, and there’s no reason not to use improved modern techniques in older cases as well, especially capital ones. After all, what are they afraid of? That they might find out he didn’t commit the crime after all?

UPDATE: Unlearned Hand adds something I didn’t know: if you are exonerated of a crime, your felony conviction still isn’t expunged. So even if you’ve been found actually innocent, you still have a criminal record.

That’s unbelievable. If a court finds you not guilty, regardless of whether it’s now or 20 years from now, you shouldn’t have a felony conviction on your record. How on earth does a rule like that stay around?