Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Australia: DNA to be retested in convicted killer's case

It's just amazing how often "lost" evidence can suddenly be found

A MAN jailed for murder nearly 20 years ago has been thrown a legal lifeline, with DNA evidence to be retested for the first time in Queensland legal history. Brisbane's Wolston Correctional Centre inmate Shane Davis has vehemently proclaimed his innocence since his conviction for the murder of South African tourist Michelle Cohn on the Gold Coast in 1990.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick last night revealed "DNA material" used to prosecute Davis would be retested at Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services in Brisbane. The move comes as part of a broader policy review due early next year on how to guide decision-making on similar cases in future. "DNA testing techniques have progressed significantly since the time of Mr Davis's trial," Mr Dick told The Courier-Mail. "By testing this material, we will have access to results that may help in shedding new light on whether Mr Davis's conviction was correct or not. "I am happy to support any measures that uphold the integrity of our legal system and ensure that the interests of justice continue to be maintained."

His decision comes after a long-running review of the case by The Innocence Project, a pro bono group of law students and defence lawyers at Griffith University who examine cases involving possible doubt. Dean of Law at QUT and former federal attorney-general Professor Michael Lavarch said the decision would not affect most cases. "One suspects that it's a relatively small number of cases but if there's one innocent person sitting in a jail somewhere it's one too many," he said.

The top prosecutor involved in the Davis case, former director of public prosecutions Royce Miller, QC, told The Courier-Mail in August that the Government should review the Davis case. "Everybody makes mistakes in life," Mr Miller said. "But never fail to acknowledge the mistake if you've made it. "So long as now I've done something to remedy the wrong I wouldn't feel any qualms about what happened 18 years ago."

The DNA evidence used in the Davis case was thought destroyed until former attorney-general Kerry Shine officially recognised its existence on the day Mr Dick replaced him as attorney-general. "We don't know whether Davis is innocent or not," said lawyer Chris Nyst, who is part of The Innocence Project. "He says he is. What we do know is that we now have the technology to ascertain that. It should happen and we want it to happen quickly."

There have been several high-profile cases in other Australian states in recent months, and DNA testing has been used to free convicted people in the US. As of July 23, 240 people convicted of serious crimes in the US have been exonerated this way; they served a total of 3000 years.

Original report here

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

any comments now it has proved this scumbag was responsible for a terrible crime? you got your DNA retesting... now what? what about the pain this has caused the victim's family?