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Today's Innocence Blog

Posted: 28 Jul 2008 01:35 PM CDT
Ten years ago, on July 20, 1998 - after serving almost 15 years for a rape he didn't commit - Perry Mitchell became the first South Carolinian to be exonerated by DNA. Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of his exoneration.

Although Mitchell was allowed access to the DNA tests that ultimately freed him, his request could have easily been denied. Even now, ten years after Mitchell's exoneration, South Carolina is one of seven states with no law guaranteeing DNA access to inmates who believe they have been wrongfully convicted. Legislation that would have ensured access to DNA testing and evidence preservation recently passed South Carolina's legislature, only to be vetoed by Governor Mark Sanford. The governor said he couldn't support a last-minute amendment to the bill that would have allowed DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for a serious crime.

Click here to learn more about the situation in South Carolina or view our interactive map to find out about the other six states lacking DNA testing access.
Posted: 28 Jul 2008 01:51 PM CDT
After two mistrials and a third trial that ended with a hung jury, Darrell Edwards was convicted of a 1995 Newark murder in his fourth trial. The main evidence against him was eyewitness testimony. The prosecution argued that Edwards shot the victim in a sandwich shop and then fled down the street, tossing a hooded sweatshirt and gun.

New DNA testing has revealed a mixture of male profiles on the sweatshirt and gun, none of which match Edwards. And an eyewitness who testified at trial that she identified him from 271 feet away (at night) without wearing her glasses now says she was "just guessing." There is significant evidence that the crime was actually part of a Newark-Atlanta drug-trafficking ring (completely unrelated to Edwards) but police ignored evidence that could have led to the real perpetrator years ago. Innocence Project attorneys will argue at a hearing tomorrow afternoon in Newark, New Jersey, that the new evidence is more than enough to overturn Edwards' conviction and grant him a new trial.
"The person who committed this crime left their DNA on the sweatshirt and the DNA does not belong to Darrell Edwards," (Innocence Project Staff Attorney Vanessa) Potkin said. "From our perspective, the new DNA test results are powerful evidence showing what Darrell Edwards has been saying for nearly 13 years, that he is not responsible for this crime."

Read the full story here. (Newark Star-Ledger, 07/27/08)
At tomorrow's hearing, the Innocence Project will also present new scientific findings on the unreliability of eyewitness identifications from long distances, showing that a person can not identify anyone's face from 271 feet - even if the witness has perfect eyesight and they are identifying an acquaintance.

A video on WABC News Friday explored the new discoveries on identification research, and features an interview with Edwards from New Jersey State Prison. "I believe that my day is coming," Edwards says. Watch the full video here.

Get details on attending the hearing here.
 I just received this in my e-mail and since I asked if I could share I believe that  this is a very important item to pass on. As much as I have thought that I knew about  the innocence project I see I need to learn even more, such as I was not aware of  what is going on in South Carolina. I urge anyone here that may be reading this to check it out. I for one see I need to do a lot more on educating myself.
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