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In 2006, Mr. James Calvin Tillman became the first person in Connecticut to be exonerated through the use of post-conviction DNA testing. He joined a group of DNA exonerees that currently numbers more than 200 nationwide. In many ways, Mr. Tillman's case is a paradigmatic DNA exoneration-involving a cross-racial mistaken eyewitness identification, issues of race, and faulty forensic testimony. This Article uses the published opinions affirming Mr. Tillman's conviction-particularly his direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, and his appeal from the state habeas proceeding-to reflect on the meaning of appellate and postconviction proceedings. Does Mr. Tillman's exoneration reveal any problems with appellate litigation, or is it the product of mistakes in investigation and adjudication that are beyond the purview of appellate courts? There is no question that the root causes of Mr. Tillman's wrongful conviction must be addressed at the investigatory and trial level. In this Article, the Author argues that state appeals courts play an important role in signaling the types of issues that should concern judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. Certain features of appellate review that appear in the Tillman opinions-heavy reliance on tools that the Author describes loosely as "harm-type" and "preservation-type" analyses, as well as deferential ineffective assistance of counsel standards---can contribute over the long-term to local criminal justice cultures that fail to guard adequately against wrongful convictions.

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77 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1499 (2009)

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Criminal Law Commons