Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where is the outrage?

The National Institute of Justice released an interesting survey ( that found law enforcement agencies had not submitted forensic evidence (including DNA, fingerprints, firearms and tool marks) to a crime lab in:
Fourteen percent of open, unsolved homicides.
Eighteen percent of open, unsolved rapes.

According to the Innocence Project there have been 245 people exonerated by DNA, 17 of whom were on death row. This summer the U.S. Supreme Court refused to acknowledge post-conviction DNA testing as a constitutional right. However, 44 states and the federal government have laws allowing post-conviction access to biological evidence for testing.

With so much attention paid to post-conviction access to testing, law enforcement agencies are failing to test evidence in pending unsolved homicides and rapes. How many cases could be solved if we paid as much attention to solving crimes as policy makers do to pursuing exonerations. In 2005, there were 16,692 murders in America. The clearance rate (the number of homicides solved)was 62-percent, meaning 8,012 murders went unsolved. According to the NIJ, approximately fourteen percent of those unsolved cases would have untested forensic evidence or 1,112 potentially solvable cases.

That is four times as many cases that could have been solved in one year than have been exonerated in the last two decades. Where is the outrage that 8,000 murderers a year walk the street, over a thousand of whom might have forensic evidence available to convict them.

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