1. The Heresay Rule.
A man wrongfully convicted of murder at age 13 was released and pardoned 16 years later – this week in Illinois, after an eyewitness recanted and someone else was charged. At the original trial, the court barred heresay testimony that the defendant was innocent and that the murderer was the newly accused.
We admit other testimony that is potentially biased or prejudiced, and the subjectivity of the evidence is thoroughly probed on cross-examination. Should we consider adding another exception to the heresay rule, where the proposed testimony would offer a complete defense and through no misconduct by the defendant the evidence is not available by other means?
2. Prison Over-Crowding.
The United States has 5% of the World’s population and 25% of its prisoners. Virginia’s U.S. Senator Jim Webb allegedly commented that Americans are either the most dangerous people on earth, or we are doing something wrong. A bill before the Illinois legislature would require a financial impact study and a projected source of funds in connection with any bill increasing jail time.
3. The Cost of the Death Penalty.
The State of Colorado is considering abolishing the death penalty for a projected savings of $1M a year. They would re-direct some of the savings towards capturing and convicting murderers who are still on the street. [The Colorado Senate defeated this bill on May 6, 2009, by a vote of 18 to 17.]
ADDENDUM: On June 18, 2009, SCOTUS ruled that prisoners do not have a Constitutional right to potentially exonerating DNA evidence that becomes available after their conviction, even if they pay for it themselves. DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FOR THE THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT et al. v. OSBORNE.