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Technology and DNA can be used to prove inmates' innocence

It is a nightmare that some people in Mercer County can only imagine, but there are people who are sentenced to long prison sentences, and it is far more common than we might think. Nationally, one in 25 inmates on death row are actually innocent. While New Jersey hasn't had the death penalty since 2007, it is likely that there is a similar proportion of innocent people in New Jersey's prisons, including those sentenced to life behind bars.

Fortunately, some organizations have been pushing for the re-evaluation of certain offenders' cases. This is not a futile attempt to get out of prison, but a genuine re-examination of the evidence used to convict an offender. And with better DNA testing, there have been some offenders who are finally able to convince others of what they have been saying all along: they are innocent.

One category of crimes has been especially helped by better DNA testing -- sexual assault. For those individuals who were not convicted by DNA, later testing can exonerate them. For those who were convicted on suspect DNA evidence, a new test could show that the offender is actually innocent of the charges. Either way, it provides an opportunity for the inmate to question his or her conviction.

While it is certainly true that not all people who are incarcerated in New Jersey's prisons are innocent, there are a small but significant number who are. Some people will say that their wrongful convictions are a necessary sacrifice for our legal system, but we need to do whatever we can to help prevent the wrongful conviction of innocent people.

Source: The Tennessean, "TN exoneration joins growing number of innocence cases," Brian Haas, June 2, 2014

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