- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

CHICAGO, Feb. 19 (UPI) — The Cook County State's Attorney's office Wednesday entered a new era where prosecutors will try to determine even after conviction whether the right person was apprehended.

State's Attorney Richard Devine ordered the formation of a special unit to review 100 murder convictions to determine whether untested DNA evidence could exonerate any of those convicted.

"Our experience in recent cases has led to the conclusion that we must initiate the case review and not wait for defense lawyers,'' Devine said.

Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Robert Hovey will head the new unit, which is seeking both state and federal funding to pay for the additional testing, which costs $1,000 per test.

Among the criteria prosecutors will use in determining whether a case is a candidate for post-conviction testing are whether there is a lack of corroboration for a confession, whether a suspect has a low intelligence quotient and whether an arrest record is inconsistent with the crime.

"We're going to be asking, `Do we have the right guy?'" Chief Deputy State's Atty. Robert Milan said.

Devine said he decided to take a more proactive stance in light of recent cases where DNA evidence led to the release of several men — some of who had confessed to the crimes. One of the recent cases was that of four men convicted in the 1986 kidnapping and murder of medical student Laurie Roscetti. DNA testing not only cleared the four, but also led to the indictment of two other men.

"My directive has been for some time to be cooperative (on testing)," Devine said. "This initiative ratchets it up.

"Where it looks as if it might provide probative information on innocence we'll do the testing."

Devine called the Roscetti case a personal eye-opener.

"We were taken aback when people who had not committed serious crimes confessed to doing so," he said. "Clearly it's happened."


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