Suggestions on How to Eliminate Wrongful Convictions

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A serious dilemma for the criminal justice system concerns people who are falsely convicted and sentenced. Whereas the public expresses much concern over those who "beat the system" and go free, they pay comparatively little attention to those who are innocent then convicted.

Wrongful convictions represent an absolute misfortune for the not-guilty tangled up in a system of criminal justice that is skewed, wrong and unjust. their detrimental effects are increased by the apprehension that the true reprobate have evaded exposure and remain unconfined, probable of committing further crimes and prey on additional victims. In principle the obligation, responsibility and pursuit to identify and endorse reforms to prevent wrongful conviction and therefore facilitate the apprehension and punishment of the offender should be advocated for by everyone, opposed by none and looked upon as a top political priority.

In America judicial history, there has been widespread scrutiny and investigation of unjust convictions and subsequent. For not less than the past eight decades writers, most of whom are in the field of law, journalism, and human right activism have detailed countless wrongful sentences of the innocent and depicted as well as portrayed their causes and ensuing consequences to their families, but mostly to their persona. (Borchard, 1932; Radin, 1964; Scheck, Nuefeld, and Dwyer, 2000). Yet it's only in recent times, after countless years of overlook has a criminal number of social scientists surfaced to research and look into the this predicament (Westervelt and Humphrey, 2001; forst, 2004: Leo, 2005).

Edwin Borchard was the first individual to pioneer the study of miscarriages of justice in the American judicial system. This was through his book, convicting the innocent (1932). This book challenged the traditional belief that the innocent are never wrongly convicted in America. Borchard completely exhausted and specified sixty-five cases in which an innocent party had been wrongly prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated.

Edwin Borchard (1932) identified the following as the main reasons for wrongful convictions, these he outlined as misidentification of the suspect by the witnesses, perjured, coached and false testimony and misconduct by both the police and the prosecution. False confessions also featured prominently and have been identified as one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. According to Trod Avis (2010) in his article for the Buffalo news, he outlined the main causes of wrongful convictions as; misidentification by eyewitness invalidated forensic evidence, a lying government prosecutor and finally false confessions by juveniles and the mentally defected suspects. Cole and smith(2006:Huff, 2002),affirmed that indeed eye erroneous eye witness identification, unethical conduct by police and prosecutors by failing to reveal exonerating proof, cross-examination of possible suspects who have been diagnosed with mental in-capabilities, community pressure , false accusations and inadequacy of the counsel as well as the plea bargain pressures ,suggestive identification procedures, inadequate defense counsel, and an incompetent or poor post conviction solutions to deal with wrongful convictions all play a role in wrongful conviction.

Eye witness misidentification mainly involves the identification of all possible suspects by the victim during a lineup. On the other hand police and prosecutorial misconduct mainly encompasses the various conducts that are undertaken by the police and the prosecutor during the entire period of the trial that is, from the moment the crime is committed to the moment the suspect is arraigned in court and charged and subsequently sentenced. It involves the presentation of evidence by the defense and the prosecution. Any action that is biased and can lead to the unfairly conviction of the suspect is regarded as misconduct such as, failing by the police to disclose exculpatory evidence. Inadequate defense counsel entails the failure by the lawyer provided by the state to wholeheartedly put the interests of his client first. The final reason for wrongful conviction is the lack of an adequate post conviction solution to deal with wrongful convictions this refers to the failure of the justice system to review post appellate claims of wrongful conviction and when appropriate, refer some cases to the proper courts.

Prosecutor deliberately withholding evidence

Criminal justice officials have been identified as one of the reasons as to why innocent people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit and ended up incarcerated. These justice officials have employed unethical and illegal means to wrongfully convict a suspect. Justice officials include the police, the interrogation officers as well as the prosecution.

The leading cause of such conviction is "tunnel vision" by police who prefer picking their suspects and then looking for facts to fit the suspect as opposed to investigating the facts and letting the facts lead them to the suspects. That is "my description, not theirs"

It also includes probable police-induced false confessions, there are inherent difficulties in identifying false confessions. Since the late 1980's six studies have documented approximately 250 interrogations-induced false confessions (Ganey, 1989; Mones, 1995; Davis, 1996; Taylor, 2002). Bedau and Radelet (1987) established that forty-nine wrongful convictions in capital cases were as a result of false confessions. Leo and Ofshe (1998a, 2001), distinguished and pinpointed in excess of sixty case of proven, highly apparent, and possible police-induced declarations of guilt in the post Miranda era (i.e., after 1966)

Previously, the prosecutor's behavior and code of conduct was guided by his conscience and the assiduously inculcated ethic that the prosecutor's duty was to serve justice by finding the truth at all costs. The objective of a court case was to weigh the evidence presented for and against the accused, not to convict him at any cost. His career and self confidence was not pegged on his conviction rate. Any prosecutor who induced false swearing or withheld exculpatory evidence so as to win a court case was regarded as a shameful figure and an embarrassment to the law.

This was as in the case of Ralph Armstrong who was wrongfully convicted of murder and served more than 28 years in Wisconsin prison .The sentence was based on evidence that the prosecutor had deliberately withheld of his innocence more than a decade earlier.

Eye Witness Misidentification

False identification is one of the leading reasons as to why innocent people have been convicted. The prevalence of identification errors made by adult eyewitness has received wide research attention in recent years(e.g., Brigham, Wassermann, and Meissen, 1999;Cutler &Penrod,1995; Sporer, Malpass, and Koehnken, 1996; technical working group for eyewitness evidence,1999).Huff, and Sagarin (1996) made an exhaustive search for cases in the U.S since 1900 in which clear instances of erroneously convictions had occurred, wherein indisputable evidence of the persons innocence came to light after conviction, by way of new forensic evidence or confessions by others. They identified 205 such cases and categorized each of them by the type of error that led mostly directly to the conviction that is, perjury, forensic error, negligence by criminal justice officials, coerced confessions. In over half of these cases (52.3%), the primary causal factor leading to conviction was not correct eyewitness identification.

In the case of Walter Swift, who was found guilty in the year 1982 of a rape and burglary in Michigan, an air tight alibi, exculpatory forensic evidence and a clearly clueless defense attorney who would later lose his license were not enough to spare him conviction for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted based entirely on eye witness identification by the apparent victim, a white, pregnant woman, whose description of the attacker was clearly mismatched but all the same the prosecutor based his case on the identification of the suspect in a police line-up. The mismatched description of the attacker and the suspect was never questioned in the court room. He was later released due to forensic analysis on the attackers DNA which did not match with his.

These eye witness identifications are usually biased especially in the identification phase of the procedure. The particular method that is usually used influences the accuracy of the eye-witness identification. Show-ups are the name for the procedure when a single suspect is presented to a witness who is to report whether that person's the perpetrator, and are usually incorrect as there is an overbearing suggestion that the person is then actual culprit. Simultaneous lineups is a more preferable form of line-up as several suspects are presented next to each other and the witness is asked to choose the perpetrator.

Perjured Testimony

This comprise of two aspects, the forcing of a suspect into confessing a criminal act and coercing and or intimidating witnesses into making false accusations against defendants.

In the first case the police subject an accused to violence until he gives up and finally confess in order to escape the torture to which he is being subjected to. The second aspect of it is easier since the witness is intimidated to make the accusation and therefore falsely implicates someone else. In some cases police threaten reluctant witnesses with perjury if they fail to show up in court to repeat allegations that they made or agreed to under the third degree (Hopkins, 1931). Subjecting witnesses to third degree creates fertile ground for false accusation, fabricated evidence and erroneous testimony at trial. Police error when identifying suspects was easily compounded when interrogating witnesses and preparing them for trial. As Hopkins (1931) stated the principle source of this practice is the policeman customary abandonment of his legal role as a finder of facts and his assumption of the role of advocate for one side or the other.

A case in point of wrongfully conviction of innocent persons was the case of Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, who were wrongly convicted of murder and were released in 1995 after spending more than a decade in death row in the Illinois prison system, three former prosecutors and the four deputy Sherif who worked on the case were later with fabricating evidence against the pair.

Ways in Which the Court System Can Help To Reduce or Eliminate Wrongful Convictions

In order to avoid case of wrongful convictions it is recommended that court systems should employ the following suggestions. That is, When biological evidence is available for testing, defendants should be allowed to request and receive such tests and the results should be preserved, When eyewitness identification is involved the testimony of qualified experts and witnesses should be allowed and judges should give cautionary instruction to juries informing them of the possibility of misidentification. In addition no identification procedure especially such as lineups should be conducted without the presence of counsel for the suspect/accused, Criminal justices officials who engage in unethical or illegal conduct contributing to wrongful conviction should be removed from their position and subjected to appropriate sanctions that is defense attorneys should stop pressuring the suspects to accept a guilty plea and to a lesser charge so as to elude the higher verdict that will unavoidably follow from the jury conviction (Nardully, Eisenstein & Fleming, 1998). American judges should be advised not to presume that confessors are guilty and therefore cease from treating them more harshly and punitive, regardless of whether the confession was forced. (Giverber, 2000), Criminal case review commissions should be established to review post appellate claims of wrongful conviction and when appropriate, refer those cases to the proper courts. In conclusion taped interrogations and confessions should be introduced and finally states should enacts laws to compensate fairly those who are wrongly convicted