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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Authors

Sophia S. Chang

Abstract

Eight states in the nation do not have laws allowing post-conviction DNA exoneration: Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Without such laws, most wrongly convicted prisoners have no chance at proving their innocence because their defense depends on the exculpatory, yet unattainable, evidence that DNA provides. Denial of access to DNA evidence, whether prior to or after conviction, is an unconstitutional violation of due process. Additionally, forcing innocent people to remain in prison denies basic rights of prisoners and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

This Note argues that the prohibition of post-conviction DNA exoneration defeats the purpose and principles of the criminal justice system. Moreover, even though states have the right to enact their own criminal policies, they cannot do so in violation of the United States Constitution. Without changes in laws regarding access to postconviction DNA evidence, innocent prisoners will remain at the mercy of erratic state policies that violate fundamental rights of life and liberty.

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