“No tradition is more firmly established in our system of law than assuring to the greatest extent that its inevitable errors are made in favor of the guilty rather than against the innocent.”
That was the message from a US federal appeals court whose first-of-its-kind ruling (PDF) Friday opens the floodgates for criminals to demand fresh DNA testing if they were convicted by inconclusive or outdated DNA testing.
The legal flap—brought by a Montana man convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in 2006—concerns the Innocence Project Act of 2004 (PDF). The measure, hailed by the defense bar, gave criminals three years to seek DNA testing of evidence after their conviction. Under that law, the three-year statute of limitations may be extended if a convict can demonstrate that there is “newly discovered DNA” evidence.
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