Schuster Institute reports state failings on DNA tests

Massachusetts is the only state that has not passed a law providing inmates access

Lindsay Markel '08

Nationwide, 280 men and women have walked out of prison after DNA tests proved them innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, and after they served a combined total of approximately 3,629 years wrongfully incarcerated. Many of these exonerations happened because 48 of the 50 United States have laws granting inmates the right to test DNA evidence that might prove their innocence.

Massachusetts does not. 

The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, an independent, non-profit, reporting institute that covers social justice and human rights issues, investigated how and why the famously progressive Massachusetts is the only state that has failed to pass such a law. (The other state without that does not currently have such a law, Oklahoma, passed a statute, but its implementing program expired in 2005.)

Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Michael Blanding and Institute Assistant Director Lindsay Markel ’08 teamed up with the  Boston Globe Magazine to investigate the reasons Massachusetts remains one of only two states without a DNA access law for inmates. Their conclusions are published in “Failing the Test,” the cover story of the Sunday, November 20, 2011 issue of the magazine. In the article, the Schuster reporters profile a number of inmates who claim that DNA tests in their cases will prove their innocence — if authorities would just allow the tests.

To learn more about this issue

  • Read “Failing the Test,” The Boston Globe Magazine, Sunday, November 20,  by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism’s Michael Blanding and Lindsay Markel '08.
  • Listen to WGBH’s “Morning Edition, Monday, November 21, 7 to 9 a.m., when Heller School adjunct lecturer Phillip Martin will report on the issues raised by the Schuster Institute investigation and interview key players
  • Visit the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism’s website for a reading guide to “Failing the Test.” Learn more about the men named in the article who are waiting for tests. Learn about those in Massachusetts who have already been exonerated through DNA testing. Find out  more about the importance of evidence preservation, and why it is crucial in a system that claims to seek justice for all.

Schuster Institute student research assistants who contributed to this investigation:  Alana Abramson, Brian Boyd, Aaron Bray, Emily Dunning, Irina Finkel, Abigail Kagan, Rachel Klein, Ariadne Lyon, Vicky Negus, Joanna Nix, Amelia Rey, Marisa Tashman, Clair Weatherby and Janey Zitomer.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

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