The recent conviction of two Steubenville, Ohio, teenagers who callously joked about their crimes on social media reminds us of the shocking nature of sexual attacks and the need to address such violence through a reliable and fair criminal justice system.
Yet, unlike in the Steubenville case, when an attacker’s identity may be in question, enormous pitfalls remain in our criminal justice system, including some that can lead to wrongful convictions. A new law passed in Kentucky last week allows vital access to DNA evidence for those who contend that they are wrongly convicted of rape or sexual assault.
The Ms. Foundation for Women and our allies in Kentucky – Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, Kentucky Health Justice Network, Kentucky Jobs with Justice and Councilwoman Attica Scott – were pleased to join this important initiative led by the Innocence Project.
This law is an essential tool for stopping sexual assault and rape. When innocent people are incarcerated, the true perpetrators of violent crimes remain unpunished and often commit more crimes. Wrongful convictions make our criminal justice system less fair and less effective and make us all less safe.
Kentucky now joins a majority of states that allow access to DNA testing and analysis for individuals convicted of rape and other violent offenses who maintain their innocence. These bills help restore justice for the innocent and lead to greater safety for women and girls by helping identify the true perpetrators of sexual crimes.
Considering the epidemic prevalence of sexual assault and the trauma it causes, we need every tool possible to thwart sex crimes, including recourse against wrongful convictions that leave the real perpetrators free to reoffend.