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The American Bar Association organized a nationwide project aimed at eliminating flaws in administrating the death penalty. The purpose of the report was not to oppose or support capital punishment, according to team member and former Attorney General Mark Earley.
"If we're going to have a death penalty, I think everyone would agree we have to get it right," he says. "We have to make sure that due process is afforded."
The team examined 12 aspects of Virginia's death penalty administration from arrest to execution. Chairman and professor John Douglass said the report recommends improvements in police identification and interrogation procedures to reduce the risk of mistaken identification.
"For example, something as simple as having a line-up conducted by an officer who doesn't know which person is the suspect, so that even unintentionally, people can't suggest what an answer ought to be," he says.
Douglass says other recommendations include broadening restrictive pretrial discovery rules, better preservation of biological evidence, and relaxing rules on post-conviction review.