IPNO News

Guest column: Allow testimony on witness identification | The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

BY NANCY FRANKLIN
Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Innocence Project New Orleans, Louisiana has the second highest rate of exonerations per capita in the country. Such a statistic gives the state something to be proud of. But what if this high exoneration rate reflects a more worrying possibility — that Louisiana is at the low end of the curve for getting verdicts right in the first place?We’re not talking about an abstract or long-ago scenario. Take the case of Archie Williams, whose conviction was cleared this March after he served more than 36 years in prison for a 1982 Baton Rouge rape that he had nothing to do with. Fingerprints from the scene were run through a national database nearly four decades later and matched to another man, who had gone on to rape five other women in the meantime. This sad outcome is not unusual. When an innocent person goes to prison, the actual criminal is free to commit more crimes. In about half of the DNA exonerations cases where the real criminal was ultimately identified, they had gone onto commit more crimes.

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