Biological Evidence

Managing Partner of Coxwell & Associates appointed to Panel on Biological Evidence.

In 2008 the Mississippi Legislature passed a law directing the establishment of a Statewide Panel to study the the implementation of a new Biological Evidence Law. Biological evidence has become critically important with the availability of DNA testing. With the advancement of science and medical knowledge, people suspected of a crime can be cleared of the allegations of wrongdoing by DNA evidence or the DNA evidence may establish an almost conclusive link in the State’s prosecution. In the early 1990’s Coxwell & Associates Managing Partner Merrida Coxwell travelled to Atlanta, GA to meet with a molecular biologists visiting from London. Mr. Coxwell was at that time representing a man charged with Capital Murder and the case involved DNA evidence. (That case can be found on the West law Cases of the Coxwell & Associates Website under Parker vs. State).

Across the United States approximately 230 people have been exonerated and released from prison after DNA evidence positively established that they did not commit the crimes for which they had been convicted. Many of these people spent over 20 years in prison, some on Death Row, before being exonerated and freed. (Currently there is no system in Mississippi to compensate wrongfully convicted people). In Mississippi two men in Noxubee county were freed and the real culprit captured because of DNA evidence, and in Hinds County, Mississippi at least one other man was freed after over a decade in jail due to DNA evidence. (See In the News section on the Coxwell & Associates website for the story about Cedric Willis).

Recognizing the importance of DNA evidence the Mississippi Legislature designated this important committee that is composed of a diverse group of people across Mississippi including law enforcement, victim groups, Legislators, and lawyers defending citizens accused of crimes, and the local law schools. Mr. Coxwell was asked to serve as the representative of the Mississippi College School of Law. The Committee had its first meeting on August 11, 2008 at the Mississippi Supreme Court Building. The Committee immediately appointed a Chairman and established a list of deadlines. The Committee is required to return its report by December 31st, 2008 so it will be available to the Mississippi Legislature.

The Committee hopes to produce a set of recommendations and a proposed law that can be delivered to the Mississippi Legislature. This Law will deal with the collection, preservation and use of biological evidence in legal proceedings. In the Law the needs of both the prosecuting agencies and those charged with a criminal offenses need to be considered and represented. While it is important to provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to convict the guilty and protect the public, it is just as important to protect citizens from wrongful convictions. This is highlighted by the 3 cases of wrongful convictions previously mentioned in this article.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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