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Wrongful Convictions and the DNA Revolution
Twenty-Five Years of Freeing the Innocent


Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Daniel S. Medwed, Michael Meltsner, Brandon L. Garrett, Richard A. Leo, Alexandra Natapoff, Rob Warden, Jacqueline McMurtrie, Michael L. Radelet, Robert J. Smith, G. Ben Cohen, Zoe Robinson, Keith A. Findley, George C. Thomas, III, Adele Bernhard, Stephanie Roberts Hartung, Paul G. Cassell, Margaret Burnham, Sandra Guerra Thompson, Robert Wicoff, Justin F. Marceau, Steven Wise, Mark Godsey, Erik Luna
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  • Date Published: March 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107129962

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About the Authors
  • For centuries, most people believed the criminal justice system worked - that only guilty defendants were convicted. DNA technology shattered that belief. DNA has now freed more than three hundred innocent prisoners in the United States. This book examines the lessons learned from twenty-five years of DNA exonerations and identifies lingering challenges. By studying the dataset of DNA exonerations, we know that precise factors lead to wrongful convictions. These include eyewitness misidentifications, false confessions, dishonest informants, poor defense lawyering, weak forensic evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct. In Part I, scholars discuss the efforts of the Innocence Movement over the past quarter century to expose the phenomenon of wrongful convictions and to implement lasting reforms. In Part II, another set of researchers looks ahead and evaluates what still needs to be done to realize the ideal of a more accurate system.

    • Includes timely contributions from the largest collection of elite American scholars in the field, providing easy access to the best scholarship on DNA evidence in a single volume
    • The clear two-part structure offers guidance to scholars looking either to the past or to the future to readily identify relevant content
    • Contains a comprehensive examination of a distinct and pivotal era in criminal justice (the DNA revolution from 1989 to 2014)
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This thoughtful collection of essays on one of the most important scientific and legal advances of the past century is a must read for anyone who wants to understand American criminal justice. Exonerations have so much to teach us about what goes wrong in police encounters, prosecutors' offices, and courtrooms around the country, and this book serves as a much needed guide.' Rachel E. Barkow, Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy and Faculty Director, Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, New York University School of Law

    'This excellent and timely collection examines the revolutionary impact of DNA identification on American criminal justice. It explores the major changes triggered by DNA exonerations, starting in 1989 - in criminal investigation, trial procedure, the use of the death penalty - and it discusses the challenges we still face and reforms that may yet happen.' Samuel R. Gross, Thomas and Mabel Long Professor of Law, University of Michigan

    'Wrongful Convictions and the DNA Revolution should be required reading for prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and jurors alike. The book magnificently lays bare the painful but critical lessons from twenty-five years of struggle for exoneration of the innocent.' Jeannie Suk Gersen, John H. Watson, Jr Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

    'The chapters of Wrongful Convictions and the DNA Revolution summarize remarkable strides achieved by the Innocence Movement, provide insight into the movement's legal and institutional elements, and point to future challenges. Every criminal law scholar in law schools and criminal justice departments would benefit by reading the volume. It is an excellent high-level entry point for criminologists new to wrongful conviction research. Instructors could assign individual chapters in advanced wrongful conviction courses. In sum, Daniel S. Medwed's volume deserves a central place in the growing library of wrongful conviction scholarship.' Marvin Zalman, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107129962
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 34 mm
    • weight: 0.8kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld
    Introduction. Talking about a revolution: a quarter century of DNA exonerations Daniel S. Medwed
    Innocence before DNA Michael Meltsner
    Part I. A Look Back - What Have We Learned from 25 Years of DNA Exonerations?
    Section 1. The Big Picture:
    1. Convicting the innocent redux Brandon L. Garrett
    2. Has the innocence movement become an exoneration movement? The risks and rewards of redefining innocence Richard A. Leo
    Section 2. A Closer Look at Specific Lessons:
    3. Negotiating accuracy - DNA in the age of plea bargaining Alexandra Natapoff
    4. Reacting to recantations Rob Warden
    5. A tale of two innocence clinics - client representation and legislative advocacy Jacqueline McMurtrie
    Section 3. The DNA Era and Changing Views of the Death Penalty:
    6. How DNA has changed contemporary death penalty debates Michael L. Radelet
    7. What does innocence have to do with cruel and unusual punishment? Robert J. Smith, G. Ben Cohen and Zoe Robinson
    Part II. A Glance Ahead - What Can Be Done to Avoid Wrongful Convictions in the Future?
    Section 4. Substantive Reforms:
    8. Flawed science and the new wave of innocents Keith A. Findley
    9. Prosecutors - the thin last line protecting the innocent George C. Thomas, III
    10. Ineffective assistance of counsel and the innocence revolution - a standards-based approach Adele Bernhard
    Section 5. Procedural Changes:
    11. Post-conviction procedure - the next frontier in innocence reform Stephanie Roberts Hartung
    12. Can we protect the innocent without freeing the guilty? Thoughts on innocence reforms that avoid harmful tradeoffs Paul G. Cassell
    13. Retrospective justice in the age of innocence - the hard case of rape executions Margaret Burnham
    14. Outbreaks of injustice - responding to systemic irregularities in the criminal justice system Sandra Guerra Thompson and Robert Wicoff
    15. Exonerating the innocent - habeas for nonhuman animals Justin F. Marceau and Steven Wise
    Section 6. The International Arena:
    16. The global innocence movement Mark Godsey
    17. Innocence at war Erik Luna.

  • Editor

    Daniel S. Medwed, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
    Daniel S. Medwed's research revolves around the topic of wrongful convictions. His book, Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict and its Impact on the Innocent (2012), explores how even well-meaning prosecutors may contribute to wrongful convictions because of cognitive biases and an overly-deferential regime of legal and ethical rules. In 2013, he received the Robert D. Klein University Lectureship, which is awarded to a member of the faculty across Northeastern University, Massachusetts, who has obtained distinction in his or her field of study. He is also a Legal Analyst for WGBH News, Boston's local NPR and PBS affiliate.


    Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Daniel S. Medwed, Michael Meltsner, Brandon L. Garrett, Richard A. Leo, Alexandra Natapoff, Rob Warden, Jacqueline McMurtrie, Michael L. Radelet, Robert J. Smith, G. Ben Cohen, Zoe Robinson, Keith A. Findley, George C. Thomas, III, Adele Bernhard, Stephanie Roberts Hartung, Paul G. Cassell, Margaret Burnham, Sandra Guerra Thompson, Robert Wicoff, Justin F. Marceau, Steven Wise, Mark Godsey, Erik Luna

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