Texas A&M Law Review

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The DNA exonerations of the late twentieth century spawned a reform movement arguably as influential in the American criminal justice system as the Warren Court criminal procedure revolution. The goal of innocence reform is to prevent wrongful convictions by increasing the reliability of criminal justice system operations. A basic tenet of the adversary system of justice is that an adversary trial will expose and correct factual errors with procedural tools, such as the exclusion of unreliable evidence, vigorous cross-examination of witnesses, and the introduction of expert testimony. However, DNA exonerations have undermined faith in the capacity of the adversary trial system to produce reliable results—shifting the focus “upstream” in the criminal justice system to earlier stages of law enforcement investigations. Upstream reforms target law enforcement investigative practices for improvements that will reduce or eliminate the production of unreliable evidence that will later need to be excluded, attacked, or explained at trial.

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