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Rosen highlights required reforms in criminal justice

 

October 25, 2012

By Amanda Duncan

Cleveland State Marshall College of Law held its annual criminal justice forum on Oct.18, with a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Rosen. His lecture “DNA Exonerations: How to Reform the Criminal Justice System to Avoid conviction of the Innocent,” gathered together not only
CM law faculty but prosecutor and defense attorneys alike.

Rosen is a law professor at George Washington University and legal affairs editor of The New Republic. He has a bachelor’s degrees from Harvard and Oxford and a juris doctor from Yale.

Rosen stated that since the late 1980s more than 250 wrongly convicted people have been found, each of whom spent an average of 13 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, 17 of those 250 people were sentenced to die and 80 to spend their entire lives in prison.

Rosen’s lecture drew from a book written by University of Virginia Law professor Brandon Garrett titled “Convicting the Innocent.” Rosen stated that Garrett “pored through trial transcripts, interviewed lawyers, prosecutors and court reporters and explored the 250 wrongly convicted and the issues of false and forced confessions, suggestive eye witness procedure, invalid forensic testimony and corrupt statements by jail house informants that courts allow every day.

Rosen also uses the material to foster discussions with his law students and invited the audience to discuss ideas, thoughts, suggestions and stories for possible solutions to the flaws highlighting Garrett’s conclusions and possible solutions.

“A lab that analyzes a strep throat test is held at higher standards than the crime lab,” Rosen said.

Of the 250 cases, 76 percent of the eyewitnesses wrongly identified exonerated suspects.

Suspects often stood out from the rest of the line-up, and they looked nothing like the original description. “The Supreme Court has refused to focus on whether confessions are reliable, asking instead were they coerced or offered,” Rosen said.

Rosen offered Garrett’s suggestion of recorded interviews, and double-blind procedures so police don’t intentionally influence the witness or coerce innocent suspects into confessing.

“As a prosecutor, reading these stories, if I have convicted someone who is innocent, I’ve committed a double wrong, and as a prosecutor it is a learning experience,” said Brian McDonough, assistant prosecutor and Cleveland State alumnus.

There is an overwhelming bipartisan agreement that reform is needed, and this lecture is just one of the many ways that lawmakers, police and legislators can discuss ways to fix the flaws in the system.

“Our aim as a law school, among other things, is to serve as a host and catalyst for forum here at the law school to address important legal issues and to foster our joint engagement and transformed dialogues,” said Craig Boise, dean of Cleveland-Marshall.

This lecture was sponsored by the law firm of Friedman and Gilbert. It was the seventh year that they have sponsored lectures at Cleveland-Marshall.