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One More Example of Why We Need to Rethink the Criminal Justice System

On Monday, May 13, two Texas men, Stanley Mozee and Dennis Lee Allen, were finally and completely exonerated of a murder they were wrongly accused and convicted of.
They were released from prison in 2014, after spending 15 years behind bars, based on new evidence presented by the Innocence Project and the Innocence Project of Texas.
They were free from jail but not free from the stigma that comes with a conviction. Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot had asked a judge to dismiss all charges against both men because they were innocent, and on Monday a judge granted that request.
New DNA testing excluded the men from evidence obtained at the crime scene. In addition, there are accusations of substantial prosecutorial misconduct.
Innocence Project attorneys were able to review the prosecutor’s files and found that exculpatory evidence had been withheld, which is a violation of due process rights.
We wish we could say these were isolated incidents. And perhaps, given the number of criminal cases, they are. But they are still far too common.
The Innocence Project says there have been 365 DNA exonerations to date, with those released having an average of 14 years  served behind bars. Sadly, 130 of the DNA exonerees were wrongly convicted of murder, and 20 of them served time on death row.
In addition, 69 percent of the cases involved witness misidentification—the kind of facts that Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s critics totally ignored last fall.
Importantly, while going through the process of clearing the innocent, 160 actual assailants were identified—though not soon enough. The culprits had gone on to commit 152 additional violent crimes, according to the Innocence Project.
Another troubling statistic: 62 percent of the exonerees were black, far above their representation in the population.  Only 7 percent were Hispanic.
One small bright spot, 264 of the DNA exonerees have been compensated for their time spent in prison.  It’s not enough, but it’s something.
There has been a growing movement to reform the criminal justice system, with conservatives playing a leading role. The vast majority of those involved in the criminal justice system—from police to prosecutors to prison officials—are no doubt dedicated civil servants who try to do a good and professional job.
But mistakes can happen and sometimes those in the system break the laws.
The criminal justice system is still part of government, and it needs the same scrutiny that conservatives bring to other government positions. Not only would a better system send fewer innocent people to jail, it might do a better job of capturing the real culprits.