Recantations Re-evaluated

Posted Apr 13, 2007 8:13 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The court system has often spurned witness recantations, but DNA evidence shows that stance may be misguided.

Courts have viewed recantations as acts of sympathy, bribery or coercion. But DNA has shown that witnesses who recanted were really telling the truth, the New York Times reports.

“Blanket suspicion of recantations is clearly not warranted,” Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern law school, told the newspaper. “Yet the courts continue to cling” to traditional precepts.

Recantations haven’t helped Fernando Bermudez, convicted of killing a 16-year-old youth on the basis of testimony of five witnesses. All five have given sworn statements that their testimony was not true, and that they felt pressured by police and prosecutors.

Bermudez has an appeal pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York City.


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