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Posted June 20, 2012

Justice Breyer Cites Garrett's Wrongful Convictions Research

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Brandon Garrett

In his concurring opinion in Williams v. Illinois handed down this week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer cited research conducted by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Brandon Garrett.

In its 5-4 decision, the court said expert testimony about DNA testing performed by non-testifying analysts does not violate the Constitution's confrontation clause, which guarantees the rights of defendants to confront witnesses against them.

Breyer writes in his concurring opinion that forensic science standards are "not foolproof" and that it is "not difficult to find instances in which laboratory procedures have been abused."

Contact: Brian McNeill

"Moreover, DNA testing itself has exonerated some defendants who previously had been convicted in part upon the basis of testimony by laboratory experts," he writes, noting a 2009 Virginia Law Review article by Garrett and Peter Neufeld titled "Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions."

Breyer goes on to say that the study shows cross-examination of forensic experts has rarely prevented wrongful convictions.

Garrett, author of "Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong," wrote an article on Tuesday for the American Constitution Society's ACSBlog about the court's decision in Williams v. Illinois.