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Agents of Change: Post-Conviction DNA Testing and The Innocence Revolution

Caroline Erentzen, Lawyer and PhD Student, York University

Regina A. Schuller, Professor, Psychology and Law, York University

Kimberley A. Clow, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

At the Technologies of Justice Conference session Technology on trial? A Talk Exploring the Use and Misuse of Evidence, Caroline Erentzen, Regina Schuller and Kimberley Clow explore post-conviction DNA testing and the innocence revolution. The conference took place on January 26 and 27 at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



In a group study, Caroline Erentzen, Regina A. Schuller and Kimberley A. Clow found there has been a historical lack of evidence for wrongful conviction as well as methodological flaws in testing in the past. The group discusses the court’s treatment of wrongful conviction as impossible in the past, and how the emergence of DNA evidence in legal trials greatly opened up the doors for a re-investigation of many cases that had been closed in the past but still held DNA evidence. This re-opening of cases and testing with DNA caused a revolution in exoneration trials, which has been dubbed 'The Innocence Revolution.' This resulted in the clearing of many people in cases where post-trial DNA testing was done, including the many cases that had been swept under the rug in past wrongful convictions.

The group mentions that there have been many cases of untested DNA leading to wrongful imprisonment, and how many more cases are probably still untested. They bring up statistical data including the 12 per cent error rate between DNA tests and people accused in court, as well as the fact that 20 per cent of all exonerations include DNA evidence. The group of researchers want to add the Canadian voice to the DNA and conviction research and speak about how DNA played a role in a Canadian context. They conclude that DNA evidence has shaken and will continue to change the criminal justice system and our functions of infallibility in the courts and justice systems.