Sunday, August 29, 2004

Wanting more ways to get post-conviction relief

The Roanoke paper has this editorial ("Evidence rules still hinder justice in Virginia," 8/29/04) claiming that more needs to be done to allow convicted persons to prove their innocence in Virginia.

The Norfolk paper has this editorial ("State cannot ignore 3 wrong convictions," 8/29/04), which more or less says the same thing. The Norfolk paper points to the cases of Marvin Lamont Anderson, Julius Earl Ruffin, and Arthur Lee Whitfield as three Virginians exonerated by DNA evidence after years in prison. The Virginian-Pilot notes that these three owe their freedom to someone who went the extra mile in preserving evidence:

"The common thread in these human horror tales — beyond the black skin of all three of the wrongfully accused — is their saving grace: a deceased state serologist named Mary Jane Burton.

Had Burton not defied usual policy at the Virginia Division of Forensic Science during the 1970s and ’80s by methodically attaching samples of biological evidence to her files, Anderson, Ruffin and Whitfield would have gone to their graves tarred as rapists. Whitfield would still owe the state 41 more years, Ruffin five life terms."

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