Causes of Wrongful Conviction
Law leading scholars argue that the courts are the most unexamined public institutions in the world. According to Gould and Leo (2010), nobody keeps track of the cases that are prosecuted on the court or the types of convictions made for whatever reason. This may be responsible to the rising number of wrongful convictions in the court system. Several years ago, the U. S Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated that was satisfied with the rate at which innocent people were convicted of felonies. The rate was at 0.27% (Bach 2010). He debated that, for the justice system to function, there had to be a possibility that someone would be convicted unfairly. However, we cannot be sure of these rates because no one can really document all unfair convictions due to the unmonitored nature of the Department Of Justice.
Eyewitness error from faulty memory is one of the reasons for wrongful convictions. Bach (2010) suggests that government misconduct by both police officers and the prosecution is sometimes responsible for wrongful convictions. Junk science, snitch testimony, and falsified confessions, among other reasons have also attributed to innocent individuals facing conviction.
The case Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife in August 12, 1986 is a classic example of wrongful conviction caused by negligent prosecutors (Levs 2013). Michael served 25 years behind bars for a crime that was committed by a convicted felon. A bandana with bloodstains that were withheld from evidence during Michael’s trial revealed the DNA of another man, Mark Norwood, who also killed another woman in Austin. The prosecutor Ken Anderson, who was now a judge, stepped down from his position and lost his law license. However, Levs (2013) argues that this was nothing close to the loss that Michael suffered behind bars. His relationship with his son was lost, and so were his most productive years.
Research has been instrumental in assisting innocent individuals clear their names from these kinds of convictions. Gould and Leo (2010) reveal that there are tested methods which would aid the judicial personnel avoid wrongful convictions. They include measures like sequential, double-blind eyewitness identification and electronically recorded interrogations.
Overall, it is important to note that most individuals that have been exonerated of their wrongful convictions are those involved in huge cases. Wrongful convictions victims of small felonies are hardly revisited. This shows that the problem is more serious that Justice Antonin suggests. It would, therefore, be advised that prosecutors should take a moment to consider how a wrongful conviction affects a victim's life and as a result, only convict if the evidence suggest they are guilty.
Bach, A. (2010). Extraordinary wrongful convictions, ordinary errors,--why measurement matters. Albany Law Review, 73(4), 1219-1225.
Gould, J. B., & Leo, R. A. (2010). One hundred years later: wrongful convictions after a century of research. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 100(3), 825- 868.
Levs, J. (2013, 4 Dec). Innocent man: how inmate Michael Morton lost 25 years of his life, CNN. Web 28 April, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/04/justice/exonerated-prisoner-update-michael- morton/