There’s quite a discussion going on over at Grits for Breakfast and the TDCAA forum on the topic of destruction of DNA evidence. Here are the two posts from Grits – Destruction of DNA evidence thwarts justice and DAs dislike criticisms of DNA destruction practices. On the TDCAA discussion forum a discussion topic was started about the destruction of DNA evidence (JB is WC DA John Bradlley) as a bargaining chip in plea bargains. Once these attorney’s statements were popularized at Grits the DA’s felt that their statements being put out in the blogosphere was somehow an infringement on their First Amendment rights. Funny how their own words being used against them can be construed as infringing on their First Amendment rights.
These statements are not reporduced to infringe on thier First Amendment rights but to further the discussion. And just like the reaction to bloggers by the MSM, the reaction of these DA’s to bloggers and citizens joining the discussion and criticism of thier statements is eerily similar. It’s very informative to find out how DA’s react when their statements are reproduced, and also to see how they strategize.Â (I would recommend anyone interested in how DA’s work to keep up with this forum, it’s very interesting.)
The destruction of DNA evidence seems like an attempt to make sure their mistakes, in the form of wrongful convictions, don’t come back to haunt them, no matter what the truth is. And for this blogger it was very informative. I didn’t even know it was possible, or legal, to use the destruction of evidence as leverage in a plea bargain. It raises the hair on the back of my neck whenever the words destruction of evidence are used.
Excerpts from the two Grits posts are below the fold.
First Amendment discussion:
Bradley goes on to play the martyr, complaining that unruly, “unrestrained and uneducated” bloggers who dare monitor their User Forum are somehow infringing on prosecutors’ First Amendment rights:
Final note: the value of this website is the ability of prosecutors to exchange thought and ideas. That value is diminished by the unrestrained and uneducated accusations of others who seek to make political points. But, that should not discourage lawyers from continuing to exchange information — information that surely even outside posters would agree is available by virtue of the application of the First Amendment to all persons, even prosecutors.
This is a red herring. Who in the world is trying to stem prosecutors’ free speech? If anything, all I’ve ever done on Grits is give their speech a wider audience, which hardly seems to impinge on their freedom.
From the original post on the topic of destroying DNA evidence these seem to be the two main reasons for DA’s wanting to do this:
The law allows plea agreements to waive future DNA testing. Bradley pointed out that, “Innocence, though, has proven to trump most anything.” As a result, he said:
A better approach might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest. Harris County regularly seeks such agreements.
And that’s probably why Harris County hasn’t seen the number of DNA exonerations as in Dallas – when cases like this involving police or prosecutor misconduct arise and DNA evidence is the only way to prove it, they’ve already destroyed the potentially exonerating evidence.
That’s pretty smart if all prosecutors care about is racking up wins, but it’s morally abhorrent for anyone who cares about truth or justice.
BLOGVERSATION: Michael Connelly at Corrections Sentencing protests that my characterization of such plea agreements as morally abhorrent “doesn’t even come close to covering it. This is pure CYA and substituting the worst form of human evil for justice.” Fine, then. Correction noted.