CRIME
12/18/2013 04:06 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Texas Law Allows Convicts To Challenge Forensic Evidence That Put Them Behind Bars

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The state that executes the most people in the United States by far is also leading a charge to give wrongly convicted inmates a chance to clear their names.

A law passed in September allows inmates to challenge outdated and often discredited forensic evidence that put them behind bars.

USA Today reports today that Dan and Fran Keller were released earlier this month after serving more than two decades for child abuse that they didn't commit.

A doctor who testified about the children's harmed genitals later recanted his testimony and, more importantly, lawyers for the Kellers cited a 2002 study that revealed children's willingness to endorse fantastical tales, such as recollections of abuse, over more ordinary stories

The law was passed two months after the FBI admitted that in as many as 27 death penalty cases, the convictions had been based on "exaggerated scientific testimony," according to the Washington Post.

Stephen Saloom, policy director of the Innocence Project, told USA Today the problem of "junk" forensic science isn't confined to Texas.

"This is not just a Texas problem. This is happening all over the country," Saloom said. "Texas just happens to be a leader in its willingness to reconsider convictions based on such evidence."

Denny Lebouef, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's capital punishment project, previously told The Huffington Post that the 27 cases highlight a larger problem of forensic scientists working for law enforcement and prosecutors who are concerned with getting convictions.

"It's a very good thing when forensic scientists act like real scientists instead of agents for the prosecution," Lebouef said. "It speaks to a systemic problem that we don't look at."

The Wall Street Journal reported on the case of Elizabeth Ramirez, another Texas inmate set to be released thanks to the new state law:

Bexar County prosecutors have agreed not to oppose the release of Ms. Ramirez and two other women convicted of sexual abuse in the case, after a pediatrician who testified for prosecutors conceded recently that evolving scientific standards have discredited her trial testimony that an alleged victim had exhibited physical signs of an assault.

"I was in shock at first when I heard the prosecutors had agreed to bail," Ramirez told the Journal. "It won't be a reality until I smell fresh air."

HuffPost

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