Call it balance

One of Michigan's new DNA laws aims at getting people cleared of crimes. The other could get more convicted.

The first measure, passed unanimously by both chambers of the Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm this month, makes available for three more years post-conviction DNA testing for convicted felons. A law enacted in 2001 allowed such testing if DNA evidence existed, wasn't analyzed before trial and could exonerate the convicted person. But it expired at the end of last year. However, dozens of cases remain to investigate, say lawyers at the Innocence Project at Cooley Law School in Lansing. Three Michigan men have been released from prison under the law since it took effect.

Under the second measure, which has also been signed into law, DNA will be collected much like fingerprints and mug shots for people arrested on suspicion of felonious assault, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, robbery and armed robbery. The DNA profile would be entered into the database and kept for comparison with evidence from other crimes.

The Cooley Innocence Project has about 80 open cases students and faculty are investigating that may merit testing, so the extension of the law was good news. But co-director Marla Mitchell-Cichon was disappointed the law as enacted doesn't allow testing for people who pled guilty. "Nationally in 15 percent of the DNA exonerations, the defendant falsely confessed to the crime or pled guilty," she says. "Our client, Nathaniel Hatchett, exonerated in April 2008 gave a coerced confession in his case and so did Eddie Joe Lloyd, exonerated in 2002."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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