DNA to Exonerate the Innocent (and Identify the Guilty)

At the Wisconsin State Journal, there’s a story about the Wisconsin Innocence Project’s work on behalf of an innocent man. Entitled, DNA project finally clears name of wrongly imprisoned man, the story shows the excellent work of Wisconsin’s Innocence Project:

The state’s effort to collect thousands of missing DNA profiles has paid off for a Milwaukee man who had been released – but not officially cleared – in a 1984 rape and murder.

Another suspect was recently identified through DNA testing and has confessed to the crime for which Robert Lee Stinson spent 23 years in prison, Byron Lichstein, an attorney with the Wisconsin Innocence Project who represents Stinson, said Monday.

Stinson, 45, was released in 2009 after the Innocence Project presented evidence that the DNA found on the victim didn’t match Stinson’s and that the bite marks – which were virtually the only evidence against him – also didn’t come from Stinson….

After Stinson was released, the UW-Madison-based project continued to pursue the case, paying a private company to create a DNA profile of the perpetrator that could be run through Wisconsin’s DNA databank.

“We knew someone had committed this crime, and we didn’t want him or her walking the streets,” Lichstein said.

Lichstein said he was notified about a week ago that the profile was found to match a profile in the DNA databank taken from convicted rapist and murderer Moses Price in November. Price, 49, has signed a notarized statement describing the crime in detail and taking responsibility for it, Chicago attorney Heather Donnell said….

Stinson’s conviction was overturned last year after prosecutors decided not to oppose the motion to free him. Lichstein said Price’s confession and the positive DNA match provide the final proof that Stinson was wrongfully convicted.

Robert Lee Stinson spent twenty-three years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, and a culpable man spent those years unpunished for having raped and murdered someone. The use of DNA evidence not only freed an innocent man, it allowed for the identification of a guilty one.

The Innocence Project acted correctly twice over, in exoneration of someone innocent, and identification of someone guilty.

It’s not just the biological science of DNA matching that can help law enforcement; television cameras can help law enforcement in a similar way. Use of camcorders at police stops can help determine when officers have committed misconduct, and when they have been falsely accused by those they question.

No one believes that identification or recording are perfect, but they are far more beneficial than their absence.

I’m sure that Robert Lee Stinson, and the victims of Moses Price, would think so.

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