No access to records
Almost all non-DNA exonerations are based, in part, on records created by law enforcement or prosecutors at the time the case was originally being prosecuted. Public access to these files is essential for an open and accountable criminal justice system.
While Louisiana has a robust Public Records Act that, theoretically, allows people to access law enforcement and DA”s files after convictions are final, in practice it is very hard for people in prison to get copies of these files and to ensure they have a complete file on their case. People in prison rarely have the money to pay for copies, rarely know exactly which agencies to write to ask for files and rarely know what documents they are asking for.
All of these things affect their ability to get crucial records that could contain clues as to their innocence. Even if prisoners request the right documents and have the money to pay, often they receive incomplete responses to their requests and have no way of verifying that they have the full file.
In many of IPNO’s cases, prisoners had made public records requests before IPNO began to work on the case and when IPNO made the same request years later, it was given more records.
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