Bacon Bits: Of DNA and Electrons….

Getting 39,999 right out of 40,000 not too shabby. After 18 years the Virginia Forensic Science Board has wound up its review of 530,000 cases in which DNA evidence was available. The effort identified 13 men who were wrongfully convicted, including the highly publicized cases of Earl Washington Jr., and Thomas Haynesworth, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

One wrongful conviction is too many, those who were deprived of their liberty should be recompensed, and mechanisms need to be put into place to ensure that such tragedies are not re-enacted. But 13 instances of wrongful convictions is a far cry from predictions that the wrongful conviction rate in sex cases could be as high as 15%. Indeed, compared to the perception of prevalent injustice, the numbers are reassuring: The review of DNA evidence ended up reversing only one in 40,000 convictions. If your standard is perfection, then Virginia’s legal system is a failure. Clearly it did fail in at least 13 instances, and it could be argued that there were miscarriages of justice that the DNA review did not uncover. But by any other standard, the fact that 39,999 cases out of 40,000 withstood the review is very encouraging. I wonder how many the court systems of other states and countries would have fared as well.

Does this contract actually do anything? Last week Governor Ralph Northam announced an agreement for state government to purchase from Dominion Energy 420 megawatts from multiple solar farms and the state’s first onshore wind farm. The contract ensures that 30% of the electricity consumed by state agencies and institutions in Virginia comes from renewable sources. “This is an historic announcement for renewable energy growth in Virginia,” pronounced Secretary of Commerce and trade Brian Ball. First question: What difference does it make? If Dominion had committed to building these projects anyway, Virginia electricity customers would have been consuming clean energy regardless. The fact that the state is paying directly for these projects, rather than as a general ratepayer, does not increase the supply of green power by one electron. Another question: What will the state pay for the bragging rights? Will it pay more or less than general ratepayers? The governor’s press release doesn’t say… which is not a good sign. If this were a good deal for taxpayers, I’m sure the governor would have mentioned it.

— JAB

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3 responses to “Bacon Bits: Of DNA and Electrons….

  1. “Does this contract actually do anything?”

    Odds are the taxpayers will be paying more for electricity under this insider deal than they would if the supply had been put out to bid. But how embarrassing it would be if a third party supplier served the state! So it may mean we are overcharged. These contracts are not subject to SCC approval. But they should be fully FOIA’d by somebody. There is a 21-page attachment to the press release. https://dmme.virginia.gov/dmme/Contracts/Virginia_Renewable_Energy_Contract.pdf

    Clearly it demonstrates to one and all that the pretend enmity between the utility and the Democratic establishment will fade and disappear after the election. The iron triangle will hold. Efforts at breaking the monopoly are even more futile than they were before. But I showed even better evidence of that yesterday.

    If CO2 is indeed going to cause a catastrophe, I wouldn’t shelve your adaptation plan just yet. This won’t even move the needle in the region, let alone compensate for the growing emissions in China, India and elsewhere.

  2. On the DNA – it’s not only legitimate errors made but sometimes the LAB is “too close” to law enforcement and improper influence occurs and that’s why these labs should be completely walled-off from law enforcement and DNA testing done double-blind so no one knows who it is until the test is complete.

    Read this to see what I mean – nothing about DNA – all about propriety:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1997/06/15/when-a-lab-gets-it-wrong/0dbbf75b-6d41-4f03-9eb0-a319d415fe8a/

  3. Yes, the predictions, based on the first sample, proved to be overstated. That is a good thing. Mark Warner should be commended for ordering the review when he was governor and Virginia should be proud of the effort and cost that went into this review.

    It should be kept in mind that eyewitness testimony accounts for about 70 percent of wrongful convictions. (https://www.innocenceproject.org/eyewitness-identification-reform/) And, DNA evidence is not available in many criminal cases. The logical conclusion of these two facts is that there are likely many more wrongfully convicted persons in Virginia prisons than the 13 who were identified. For one such case, see https://wtkr.com/2019/02/22/general-assembly-awards-520k-to-virginia-man-wrongfully-imprisoned-for-11-years/.

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