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Post-conviction matters: DNA analysis could overturn conviction

People in Michigan who believe they were wrongfully convicted might have opportunities to prove their innocence. Under federal and state laws, convicts may request the court to revisit their cases if new DNA evidence becomes available. Such post-conviction matters have led to the release of multiple prisoners who could prove wrongful convictions.

In most of these cases, DNA testing was not yet available at the time of the conviction. In other cases, technology might be available to do more advanced DNA testing. New DNA evidence need not prove a convicted person's innocence, but if it raises a reasonable doubt, the overturning of a conviction might be justified. However, the state might have strict time limits related to the period allowed for retesting DNA after the discovery of new evidence.

Judges will assess the new evidence, based on standards under state laws, to determine whether the evidence is strong enough to warrant the reopening of the case. Conclusive proof that the conviction would have been prevented had the new DNA evidence been available at the original trial might be enough to start new proceedings. However, these standards vary from one jurisdiction to the next.

Any convicted individual in Michigan will know that this is not a battle on which to embark without an experienced criminal defense attorney in his or her corner. A lawyer who possesses the skills to deal with post-conviction matters can be an invaluable asset in the process to right a wrongful conviction. The attorney might be able to secure monetary compensation -- paid by the state -- for the period the person spent behind bars.

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