DNA Testing Without Request Results in Ex-inmate's Exoneration

It is difficult to imagine, for anyone who has not experienced such injustice, what it must feel like to serve time in prison for a crime s/he did not commit. The thought of it surely helps in inspiring individuals to fight for the freedom of the falsely accused.In one recent instance, a man was shocked to learn that such efforts—unfortunately carried out after the completion of his jail term— were successful in exonerating him.

57-year-old Michael Phillips, now bound to a wheelchair and living in a nursing home, served 12 years in jail for a wrongful rape conviction. What is particularly unusual and surprising about Phillips' exoneration is that it comes as a result of DNA testing which he did not request himself (in fact, the National Registry of Exonerations suggested that he may be the first inmate in the country to be cleared of a crime in this way).

In a project run in partnership by the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions, cases like Phillips' are being reviewed by the Dallas County District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit to see if other individuals might likewise be cleared. District Attorney Craig Watkins set up the unit in Dallas County and urges others to do the same. If one person was found innocent—even though he didn't ask for DNA testing—there are bound to be others.

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