It's infrequent for one of these cases to spawn results that help others in similar situations, but this may actually have happened in Ohio.
Michael Green will get a lot of money from the city of Cleveland, but he's also getting what he wanted most: change in the justice system.
The city agreed Monday to pay Green $1.6 million for the 13 years he spent in prison for a rape he didn't commit. The payment is only a fraction of the $10 million Green demanded in a lawsuit, but he accepted less because the city also agreed to reopen more than 100 cases that included testimony from the same forensics lab worker who falsely testified in Green's trial. [...] As a result of the settlement, the city will conduct a "forensic audit" on the following:
[...] During Green's trial, Serowik offered testimony on lab results that didn't match his raw data. "Serowik testified about hairs in the case and he just simply got it wrong," said Cincinnati attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein, who also represents Green. "He matched pubic hair to head hair and he said one could actually cite statistics to defend his analysis. He had no such basis for saying that. In Michael's case, he said the washrag had a neat stain [only the rapist's semen], when that was physically impossible after a rape. It obviously contained both vaginal and penis secretions after the rape. [Serowik's] raw notes reflected that, but then he testified differently. When we asked him to pull his lab reports from the 10 cases previous to Michael's, it was painfully clear he regularly testified contrary to what he wrote in his notes."
[...] The city has hired attorney James Wooley, of the Baker and Hostetler law firm, as special master to oversee the forensic audit. If the audit determines wrongdoing on the part of the forensics lab, then notice will be given to each person convicted in courts during that time period, their attorneys and the chief prosecutor and presiding judge in the jurisdictions where they were convicted. Gerhardstein and Scheck also will be notified. Those on death row or still incarcerated will receive priority.
"It may turn out that a lot of these people are guilty," Scheck said. "The most important point is this: Cleveland is using the very best model to improve the quality of the lab, because every time an innocent person is convicted a guilty one walks away."
This is going to be an odd way to put it, but I hope that there are no people whose convictions are overturned due to this case. Not because I want cases to stay closed, or because people should be in jail for these crimes even if they didn't commit them, or because if they were convicted they have to be guilty of something even if they didn't commit the crime in question, or any of that type of dreck. No, what I'd like to see is that this was just an occasional time when the system got it wrong.
But given the parade of people marching off Illinois' death row for less malign errors, somehow, I don't imagine that Ohio will get off that easily.Posted by iain at June 08, 2004 04:45 PM