Governor Branstad has announced a new Wrongful Conviction Division in the Office of State Public Defender.
Officials will conduct DNA analysis for many as 100 inmates who may have been convicted on what’s now called “junk science.”
The state will work with an organization known as the Innocence Project, which has helped exonerate inmates in more than 300 cases on the basis of DNA evidence.
State officials will review Iowa cases in which hair analysis played a major role in convictions.
Governor Branstad says investigators now know how unreliable that evidence is.
“We also know that in a system operated by humans, mistakes can be made including wrongful convictions,” Branstad says.
Branstad says Iowa investigators were trained by FBI agents who’ve now been shown to have given flawed testimony.
The state has hired an attorney who previously worked for the California Innocence Project to head the new Iowa division. Audrey McGinn helped to exonerate inmates in California.
Branstad says there have been DNA exonerations in surrounding states.
“But to date there have been no post-conviction DNA exonerations in Iowa,” Branstad says.
The Iowa cases date back to the 1980’s and early 1990’s when hair analysis was common and before investigators used DNA evidence.
State Public Defender Adam Gregg warns exonerations often take years to accomplish. He says Iowa law allows for exonerations, but up to now there has been no systematic effort to uncover wrongful convictions.