[Marxism] Innocence, DNA and criminal procedure

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Fri Aug 24 05:54:33 MDT 2007

Joaquín Bustelo asks:

I am curious as to whether there is anything like the wave of DNA
exonerations that has taken place in the United States in recent years in
any other country. And if that isn't the case, at least some informed
commentary and/or speculation as to why it is not the case -- for example,
in the U.S., multi-decade sentences (or waits for execution) are common,
giving plenty of time for scientific technique to evolve/improve), which
might not be common elsewhere.


A similar pattern of DNA-based and other exonerations of the wrongfully
convicted is occurring in Canada, largely thanks to the efforts of a small
group of dedicated defence counsel. See their web site:
http://www.aidwyc.org/index.cfm and in particular check out the "cases" and
"past cases" listed and described on that site. Most of those who have been
proved to be wrongfully convicted persons are white working-class males. But
given the very high percentage of indigenous "First Nations" persons
convicted and incarcerated in Canadian jails and penitentiaries, I would
think that we have only scratched the surface of this phenomenon.

On the latter point see, for example, 

Number of Aboriginal People in Canada’s Prisons Growing,

First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Non-Aboriginal Federal Offenders: A
Comparative Profile

Joaquín also asks:

Also, is there anywhere where a person FALSELY accused is entitled to
recovery/compensation from the state; or where an accusation made falsely
made by someone who in the U.S. would be considered an officer of the court
(i.e., someone in the role of the prosecutor), or made in reckless disregard
of its probable falseness, is either a tort or a criminal offense?


There is in most if not all common-law jurisdictions (England and ex-English
colonies) and I think in other legal systems, such as the civil law systems
based on Roman law, the tort or delict of malicious prosecution. However,
the bar for success in such suits is set pretty high by most courts; for
example, the plaintiff must prove such things as the absence of probable
cause, meaning that no reasonable attorney would have considered the case to
be tenable, and malice, which can be implied from a conscious disregard for
the consequences.

I'll confine myself to those two points raised in Joaquín's interesting


-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
[mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of Joaquin Bustelo
Sent: August 23, 2007 7:39 PM
To: 'Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition'
Subject: [Marxism] Innocence, DNA and criminal procedure

I was recently watching a TV news report on the "Innocence Project," which
does DNA testing of biological evidence (mostly from rape cases, but also
some murders) and how they have now cleared more than 200 people falsely
convicted (including 15 originally sentenced to death) in the U.S..


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