Along with the evolution of law, came wrongful convictions. Wrongful convictions have been displayed in movies, books, music, and in all forms of mass communication but people seem to not care about it until it involves someone they care for, especially in capital cases. The problem with this is that all of those cases where the defendants have been wrongfully convicted are either ignored or forgotten. Many because they can not afford private attorneys and others because of underpaid public defenders who do not spend thorough time on each case they are assigned to. So this brings us to two important questions; What are the main causes of wrongful convictions? What are the best ways to prevent wrongful convictions?
There are many reasons as to why wrongful convictions continue to occur, even in capital cases, but two of the most influential factors according to Death Penalty Information Center are: official misconduct and perjury. Official misconduct is the illegal acts of public officers which violate their duties to follow the law and protect the public. Perjury is false accusations that are voluntarily told in a court room after taking an oath and swearing honesty. The most recent data from the National Registry of Exonerations illustrates that both official misconduct and perjury make up for 68.3% of the total contribution of wrongful convictions and that the rest is composed of mistaken witnesses, false or erroneous forensic evidence, fabricated confessions, and weak prosecution and defense.
Also, in two other reports conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations: Exonerations in 2016 and Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States it is explained that a person’s race is one of the greatest links to wrongful convictions because 87% of black death-row exonerees had been victims of official misconduct in comparison to the 67% of white death-row exonerees. Therefore, the increase of hate crimes is happening both inside and outside of prison walls because the government is not taking it as seriously as they should.
Wrongful convictions can be reduced if both governmental officials and the legal system do a better job in making rightful arrests, using advanced technology and forensic science, putting pressure on attorneys to prosecute and defend a case as accurately as possible, and to open closed cases if new evidence is discovered. A study by the American University provides different way in which different procedures can be reformed in order to provide accurate convictions. The most important part of any case is making sure to have an attorney that is dedicated to all their cases. The defendant should meet with their attorney right after the arrest is done and provide to them as much truthful information as possible in order for the attorney to thoroughly investigate the case.
Another important point the report points out is the way police officers go about making an arrest on suspects of crimes because most of the time they by just the appearance of someone instead of an actual description. Officers should have a book with photos with descriptions and different tools to help them better identify the suspects. Officers should also become more comfortable with video taping their interrogations because it provides a safeguard for both the police officer running the investigation and the defendant. Lastly, police departments need to start using the most advanced forensic science available because things such as DNA testing and finger printing are crucial for any investigation. If police departments took these suggestions into considerations the accusations of official misconduct would decrease because now the chances of racial bias or other forms of corruption are less likely to take place without notice.
These are just a few ways to understand wrongful convictions and the solutions that will help to decrease the conviction of innocent people. Everyone deserves a just and fair opportunity to prove their innocence.