Boston Bar Assoc. Task Force- 3 recommendations for avoiding wrongful convictions

A BBA task force noted that for every defendant wrongly convicted, a criminal goes free. The report makes three key recommendations:

(1) Enactment of a Massachusetts statute to guarantee post conviction access to DNA testing and to require preservation of biologic forensic evidence. (Massachusetts is one of only 4 states that does not have such a statute).

(2) Expanding the membership and function of the Forensic Science Advisory Board to include scientists and lawyers who are not prosecutors. (The report cites a 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences raising serious questions about the scientific foundation of significant portions of forensic evidence admitted in courts.)

(3) Videotaping confessions. (Based on a 2004 decision of the Supreme Judicial Court most police departments are now recording confessions of suspects. The number of departments who are doing videotapes rather than just audiotapes is still in the minority. Experience of those departments who are videotaping demonstrates that the evidence obtained is more effective because there is absolutely no doubt about what is happening during the witness interview.

Bit surprised that they did not recommend further reform of prosecutor's ability to buy testimony in the form of not prosecuting snitch witnesses for certain crimes--a major problem in numerous cases we have worked on over the years. The notion of sending a check for $70,000 to a witness in exchange for their cooperation seems obviously wrong. But the notion of giving someone 8 years of their life back by not prosecuting them (and what value do you put on a year in prison?--$70,00 per year? more?)--that tactic will continue unabated. Although a jury can weigh evidence of such side deals, the fact is that many inducements given by the government to snitch witnesses are not documented at all.