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Copyright (c) 2004 The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law
The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

WALTER C. RECKLESS MEMORIAL LECTURE*The Innocence Revolution and the Death Penalty

*On April 24, 2003, Lawrence C. Marshall presented the Fourteenth Annual Walter C. Reckless Memorial Lecture at The Ohio State University. The Reckless Lecture, sponsored by the Criminal Justice Research Center, and which the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law intends to publish each year, is named after Walter Cade Reckless, a pioneer in American criminology and corrections, whose academic career spanned sixteen years at Vanderbilt University and three decades at The Ohio State University. Professor Marshall's full lecture, of which the following is an edited version, originally was entitled, "The Innocence Revolution: Assessing the Impact of Wrongful Convictions on the State of Capital Punishment and the Criminal Justice System." The Journal thanks Professor Ruth D. Peterson, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Criminal Justice Research Center, for her assistance in making the Reckless Lectures available to the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.

Spring, 2004

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

1 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 573


Lawrence C. Marshall **


It is a great honor to be part of this lecture series, honoring the memory of Walter Reckless and his outstanding contributions to the field of criminal justice. I am particularly pleased to be part of a series that was inaugurated by Simon Dinitz, and which has included a lecture by Randall Dale Adams, an innocent man who served time on death row in Texas.


The United States criminal justice system is in the midst of a revolution. Spawned by the advent of forensic DNA testing and hundreds of post-conviction exonerations, the innocence revolution is changing assumptions about some central issues of criminal law and procedure.

This revolution is quite different from those that preceded it. The Warren Court's "rights revolution" was based on a controversial set of value judgments pursuant to constitutional values of autonomy, integrity, and respect for the individual, which trumped, in some instances, the interests in accurately prosecuting criminal actors. Given the nature of these value judgments, it is not overly surprising that the Burger and Rehnquist Courts-courts with value systems quite different from the Warren Court's-have scaled back many of these decisions.

The innocence revolution is quite different, as it addresses a value that everyone shares: accurate determinations of guilt and innocence. Put another way, the innocence revolution is born of science and fact, as opposed to choices among a competing set of controversial values.

The revolution has just begun, and it is far too early to reach definitive conclusions ...
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