Indeed, wrongful convictions are a major problem in America’s justice system. This problem is alarming considering the number of executions that may result from such wrongful convictions. A 2014 research study found that about 4.1 percent of inmates on death row are wrongfully convicted. The percentage figure may seem small. However, the actual figures are alarming. For example, this means that of the 3000 inmates on death row in the US, 120 are wrongfully convicted. The number is expected to be higher for the wrongfully convicted serving life in prison terms (Von Drehle, 2014).
These revelations expose disturbing trends and fissures in the American criminal justice system, showing how much the criminal justice system is broken.
There are many reasons that can lead to wrongful convictions. Research cites four main causes. Eyewitness misidentification is believed to be the leading cause, accounting for 72 percent of wrongful convictions. This is followed by improper and unvalidated forensics (47 percent), false admissions and/or confessions (27 percent) and informants (15 percent) (Innocence Project, 2014).
The problem is that it does not seem easy to deal with this problem. Even the American justice system does not seem to have an easy solution. Otherwise the problem would not be there to begin with. The main problem is that false convictions are hard to detect once they are made and in the end, many of these cases go undetected. However, the police can be key to finding a solution to this problem. Gest (2013) proposes a culture of openness that allows new information from other reliable sources. Most importantly, there is need to mitigate the main causes of wrongful convictions, including biases in investigations, among the four causes listed above.
Ultimately, this seems to be not just a problem for the US, but in other countries as well. For example, according to Katz (2011), 1 percent of convictions in the Canada are wrongful. For example, of the 87,214 percent convictions in Canada in 2010, 872 could have been wrongful. By 2014, Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has overturned 70 of the 122 cases sent to the courts for review (Australian Lawyers Alliance, 2014). Indeed, there is need to address this problem globally.
Australian Lawyers Alliance (2014). Protecting Australia’s
Innocent. Retrieved 18 April 2015, http://www.lawyersalliance.com.au/opinion/protecting-australias-innocent
Gest, T. (2013). Inside Criminal Justice. The Crime Report, Dec. 03. Retrieved 18 April
Innocence Project (2014). The Causes of Wrongful Convictions. Retrieved 18 April
Katz, H. (2011). Justice Miscarried: Inside Wrongful Convictions in Canada. Toronto,
ON: Dundern Press
Von Drehle, D. (2014). More Innocent People on Death Row than Estimated: Study.
TIME, April 28. Retrieved 18 April 2015, http://time.com/79572/more-innocent-people-on-death-row-than-estimated-study/