On January 20, 1984, Earl Washington—defended for all of forty minutes by a lawyer who had never tried a death penalty case—was found guilty of rape and murder in the state of Virginia and sentenced to death. After nine years on death row, DNA testing cast doubt on his conviction and saved his life. However, he spent another eight years in prison before more sophisticated DNA technology proved his innocence and convicted the guilty man.
DNA exonerations have shattered confidence in the criminal justice system by exposing how often we have convicted the innocent and let the guilty walk free. In this unsettling in-depth analysis, Brandon Garrett examines what went wrong in the cases of the first 250 wrongfully convicted people to be exonerated by DNA testing. [Read More about the book, or view the table of contents.]
A multimedia resource titled Getting it Right on the causes of wrongful convictions, was co-produced with the Innocence Project.
Go to convictingtheinnocent.com to learn more about each of these DNA exonerations. You can search through the cases, by looking for cases in your state, or by looking at particular causes of wrongful convictions like false confessions.
An earlier set of resource webpages include data from the 250 wrongful convictions studied in the book, examples of false confessions, and excerpts from their criminal trials.
You can follow the book here on Facebook. I recently gave an interview with Esquire discussing false confessions. Here is a draft of a new book chapter presenting updated data from the first 330 DNA exonerations. This article updates data on false confessions and revisits the problem of confession contamination.
Here are quotes from reviews of the book. Jeffrey Rosen wrote a wonderful review in the New York Times.
This casebook is the first to cover federal habeas corpus comprehensively, presenting postconviction review and executive detention litigation in an accessible way. It is designed both for standalone courses on habeas corpus and for courses focusing on postconviction litigation, wrongful convictions, and national security detention. The first two chapters introduce students to the habeas privilege and the Suspension Clause. A four-chapter unit on postconviction litigation carefully explores cognizability, procedural doctrines, and merits adjudication. Two chapters develop the role habeas plays in review of immigration and other types of civil detention. A substantial two-chapter unit examines habeas review of military custody.
Here is a story describing the authors' goals in writing the book. You can contact Garrett or Kovarsky with questions if you are interested in teaching from the book. A teacher's manual accompanies the book and the book is also available as an online ebook. The authors have also written concise analyses of recent habeas decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And take a look at the brand newJustScienceLabwebsite with information about our criminal justice research projects at Duke Law, most recently a report on juvenile life without parole in North Carolina.