On the other hand, libertarians are half right by mattsteinglass
February 25, 2009, 7:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

That’s what a very left-wing friend said to me a couple of years back, and when I read posts like this one from Megan McArdle on why DNA testing on request would be a good idea, I’m reminded of all the things I agree with her about, particularly her admirable skepticism about how people’s motives are connected to their job incentives:

I’m told that a shocking number of prisoners request DNA tests that confirm their guilt; they have nothing to lose, and apparently want to gamble on the slim possibility of a miracle exoneration.  But this seems irrelevant to me.  If they get a DNA test and it proves them guilty, we’ve lost little time or money.  If they get a DNA test and it exonerates them, we’ve set an innocent man free.  DNA tests would have to cost $1 million apiece for me to consider that a bad bargain.

It is, of course, a bad bargain for a justice system that suddenly reveals how many innocent men prosecutors have sent to death row, and if I were a prosecutor I’ve no doubt I could find any number of excellent reasons that we should not double-check my work.  But making prosecutors feel better about themselves is not a legitimate goal of criminal policy.

I have nothing to add to that.

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