This paper deals with the problem of revisiting of the cases of convicted criminals in light of new evidence based on the DNA analysis. The paper discusses both arguments for and against the revisiting. Then some presuppositions about the perspectives of the solution of the problem are made.
Nowadays the problem of a person’s innocence becomes more and more important, particularly in the context of the recent achievements in the DNA analysis, medical technologies and science, etc. Naturally, this situation resulted in a numerous attempts to revise cases according to which some people have already been convicted. It seems to be particularly important if the case is really serious and there is a choice between life and death of a convicted person.
Consequently, it is necessary to thoroughly analyze the problem and take into consideration positions of both sides of the argument that would permit to view objectively on the necessity either to revise or not such cases.
Arguments for revisiting the cases of convicted criminals
From the humanistic point of view it would be more appropriate to start with the analysis of the arguments in favor of revisiting of the cases of those people who were convicted for crimes that they might have never committed.
However, at this point we should be very careful because we have to take into consideration all the circumstances of the crime. Moreover, it should be taken into account the possible effect of such a revisiting to American juridical system at large. In the case of revisiting that would be positive for convicted people, the public opinion about existing system of justice in the US would be under a big doubt.
At the same time, there is a certain part of American population, particularly specialists in jurisdiction, which stand on the ground of revisiting the cases of different crimes if there is some doubts or if the contemporary technological means, such as DNA analysis, could be done and influence the final sentence the criminal, or a convicted person, has once got.
Actually, there arguments seem to be quite clear and obvious. They believe that the cases should be revisited because there exist a possibility of a mistake when the sentence had been promulgated. Naturally, such a revisiting would permit to restore the justice and it would prove that the American juridical system works even despite the time of the commitment of the crime. By the way at this respect the followers of revisiting face the first problem the time limit.
But it would be further analyzed in the next chapter of the paper.
Anther argument in favor of revisiting of cases is the statistics. For instance, if we have a look at the statistic data we will find out that only in Illinois “nearly a third of the people first sentenced to death have had sentences reversed and reduced”¯ (Turow). Furthermore, recently in the same state 17 men have been sent to death were later exonerated. Such a sad statistics makes arguments of those who are for revisiting quite strong.
Arguments against revisiting the cases of convicted criminals
Nonetheless, positions of the opponents of revisiting the cases of convicted criminals seem to be also well supported by a number of convincing arguments.
First of all, it is the risk of “undermining American’s face in the legal process”¯ (Turow). Actually, it has already been mentioned that if the cases were revisited on the basis of new DNA analysis than it would be possible to revisit practically any case where this means of analysis could be used.
The latter, in its turn engenders another, purely technical problem. From the technical point of view, it seems to be quite doubtful that in every case a DNA analysis of a high quality could be always done. In some cases, it simply impossible to gather all the data and information that is necessary for such kind of analysis.
Another problem is a juridical problem. For instance, if a person has once been under the trial and he or she was finally found innocent, but now due to the DNA analysis the case hypothetically could be revisited. Consequently, there would be a dilemma: whether a person could undergo the same trial twice or not. Historically, in American juridical system such practice is impossible. On the other hand, if some people can avoid the DNA analysis then why others have to pass through it?
So, according to this position revisiting of the cases of convicted criminals is not necessary since its consequences are hardly predictable and actually, there is a slight possibility that some day the DNA analysis would be found as not so reliable as it is now and as it has actually happened to some other means of analysis. However, the latter is very hypothetical presupposition that seems to be far from real life.
In search of a way out
Naturally, such a situation needs an immediate resolution because if the cases are revisited than it should be done as soon as possible in order to restore the justice, otherwise they should not be revisited at all.
At this respect specialists are in two minds and they doubt what a solution of the problem to choose. For instance, Turow that there is practically no alternative to the clemency powers of authorities, such as governors, or “a system everyone agreed needed to be fixed.”¯
Anyway, it is obvious that there is no simple solution to the dilemma. But what can be said for sure it is the necessity to find a solution that would be more or less appropriate for both sides of the argument. At any rate, the cases of convicted criminals should be thoroughly analyzed. And in order not to create a precedent and revisit all of them there should be pointed out certain criteria according to which the case either has or has not to be revisited.
For instance, it maybe a sufficiency of data for DNA analysis or the degree of doubt in the guilt of a criminal, since there is no point at revisiting of cases when there is a one hundred percent evidences for the criminals guilt.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the problem of revisiting of the cases of convicted criminals in the light of new evidence based on DNA analysis is far from its resolution. However, the argument about it makes us hope that the solution could be found soon since those who deal with this problem are conscious of its importance.