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When Did Convicting the Guilty Become More Important Than Exonerating the Innocent?

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Douglas Warney is seeking compensation for being wrongfully convicted of a murder he did not commit and spending nine years in prison as a result. Although New York specifically provides for compensation under such circumstances, it is being opposed on the grounds that Mr. Warney's "misconduct" in confessing to the crime bars his recovery. Although someone else actually committed the crime, his confession contained information only the murderer could have known. Boy, I wonder how that could have happened!

In the case of Henry Skinner (and many others like him), the prosecution has denied and fought DNA testing which may either confirm guilt or establish innocence. He was 30 minutes from execution when the Supreme Court granted him a stay.

Anthony McKinney is seeking reconsideration of his conviction after 30 years in prison based upon evidence unearthed by the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University. Mr. McKinney has been left to spend a few more years in prison, because the prosecutor has chosen to investigate the journalism students and their professor, David Protess. The dispute has gone on for years at considerable expense to all involved, including friction between the Project and the University.

It is easy to understand that prosecutors will strive to protect convictions in which they are satisfied of the guilt of the person convicted and believe that the grounds asserted for relief are without merit. But to foreclose evidence that might prove innocence, to investigate those whose sole purpose is to provide evidence of innocence or to deny compensation to those wrongfully convicted, is not in keeping with the role or duty of prosecutors. The same vigor that goes into convicting the guilty should be exerted in exonerating the innocent.

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