A powerful editorial appears in today’s New York Times, analyzing how “modern DNA testing is steadily uncovering a dark history of justice denied.” Noting that nearly 200 wrongly convicted people have been exonerated by DNA evidence in the past 18 years—including eight in New York State in just the past 13 months—the Times says, correctly, it’s high time that all states create innocence commissions, “independent investigative bodies of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, police officers and forensic scientists who re-examine case facts after prisoners are exonerated using DNA evidence.”
The Times cites two examples of note:
- A prisoner in
spent 18 years in jail, convicted of rape “based solely on faulty testimony of a witness,” only to have a DNA test ultimately prove his innocence. Dallas
’s innocence commission, led by the state’s chief justice, has already called for police investigators to vet witnesses more carefully.” North Carolina
Upon reading these words, Times readers could be excused if they experience a bout of whiplash. After all, this is the same paper where columnists Selena Roberts and Harvey Araton published columns dripping with a presumption of guilt based solely on the version of events presented by one witness—just the type of person the editorial notes
And this is the same paper that in August published a 6000-word front page article/op-ed by Duff Wilson, proclaiming that despite the DNA test results, “there is also a body of evidence to support [Nifong’s] decision to take the matter to a jury.” That article, moreover, went out of its way to exclude mention of the following clause from the March 23 order filed by Nifong’s office: “The DNA evidence requested will immediately rule out any innocent persons.”
Some might suggest that, given its performance on the lacrosse case, the Times hardly has the credibility to lecture anyone on the power of DNA evidence.