The issue of wrongful convictions is a problem that has haunted court systems throughout the United States. The news depicts individuals being saved from death row when new evidence arrives or when evidence that was provided is proved to be false. Judges have always been expected to decipher and correctly judge every case, specifically pertaining to criminal acts. The expectations derive from the nature of individuals’ lives being in the hands of the judgment of the particular judge.Please write your paper to answer the following questions. The answer or opinion must be supported by an academic source or real-life criminal justice finding.
- How common is it for an individual to be wrongfully convicted in the criminal justice system?
- Is the United States court system judged fairly in this manner by the public?
- What do you think is a reason why an innocent person is convicted of committing a crime that he or she did not commit? Are there rules or measures that can be put in place to prevent future wrongful convictions?
- Does the court system have adequate protections in place minimizing the risk that innocent people could be convicted and then punished even though they are innocent? What additional protections would you recommend?
- Are wrongful convictions an issue common only to the United States Judicial system, or are they common in the judicial systems of other countries? Look at 3 other countries to compare.
It is uncommon for a person to receive a wrong conviction in the United States criminal justice system. A large number of studies suggest that there is a 1% likelihood of a wrongful conviction in the U.S., comparing this to the total number of convictions (Olney & Bonn, 2014). Bearing in mind that about 2 million people are convicted annually of various crimes, it is possible to see that at any one time there are about 20,000 people convicted wrongly in the U.S. each year. Majority of the cases involving wrongful convictions involve homicide, with 47%, while sexual assault comes second with 31%. Violent and nonviolent wrongful convictions are 13% and 9% respectively (Williamson, Stricker, Irazola, & Niedzwiecki, 2016). The high cases of wrongful convictions under homicide indicate that wrongly convicted defendants are more likely to face death or life sentence. Between 1989 and 2014, 1,325 convicts were exonerated of any wrongdoing after new evidence was brought to the table.
The public does judge fairly the United Courts system in the manner. The public expects that judges should prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that a person is guilty of a crime convicted. This is especially important when dealing with crimes involving capital punishment. From the 1980s onwards, the public has increasingly become alarmed over wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system. This has led to a debate about the suitability of the death penalty, with one faction urging for the abolishment of the death penalty since it is a cruel and inhuman form of punishment especially for the innocent. Serious cases may require a higher degree of certainty before court judges can make a verdict (Evianne & wilsem, 2014). Most courts observe the Blackstone ratio, which asserts that the criminal justice system is better off acquitting 10 guilty persons than jailing a single innocent one.
There are a number of reasons why innocent men are convicted of crimes they did not participate. Vast literature details eyewitness misidentification as the major reason behind most wrongful convictions. Balko (2013) argues that eyewitness testimonies are unreliable and may lead to wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system. A common challenge in using eyewitness testimonies in the criminal justice system is that judges tend to be overly-dependent on eyewitness accounts, while neglecting other factual matters. Another issue regards the need for expert testimony during criminal proceedings. Expert testimony is critical to help judges differentiate accurate and faulty evidence. There are rules that can be put in place to curb wrongful convictions in the future, for instance, use of expert testimony. Expert testimony involves use of trained psychologists who examine the reliability of eyewitness testimony (Balko, 2013). Another possible measure is the application of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings. Forensic evidence, such as DNA evidence is accurate in tying suspects to crimes.
The court system has adequate protections that aim at minimizing the risk of jailing innocent persons. One of the protections is the enactment of stringent rules guiding attorneys. Attorneys have the ability to influence the admissibility of evidence through different ways, for instance, by eroding the defendant’s account of facts. Another protection in place is the adherence the admissibility guidelines, also known as the Daubert standard. The Daubert Standard provides judges with a basic framework for admitting witness and expert testimony during trial (Daubert, 2013). Some states have adopted mandatory electronic recording rules or policy that guide the process of custodial interrogations involving capital punishment. Lastly, courts are allowing certain scientific procedures such as DNA testing following conviction in order to prove innocence. Drawing from above, the court system has adequate protections for minimizing the wrongful conviction of innocent persons. One of the additional protections that I may recommend is leveraging on technology to improve on accuracy of convictions. Application of modern technology and forensic science can greatly improve the decisions made by court judges.
Incidences of wrongful convictions are not limited to the United States criminal justice system, but are widespread across the world. For instance, these incidences have become contentions issues in places such as China, Australia, and even in the United Kingdom. Jiang (2013) examines the history of wrongful convictions in both the U.S. and China. Jiang (2013) contends that both countries have experienced a history of wrongful convictions, and especially involving the death penalty. China judicial system of China is at a higher risk of wrongful convictions owing to the nature of investigations, which involve torture. The Australian judicial system has also witnessed wrongful prosecutions. The issue of wrongful convictions came to the limelight after Andrew Mallard was incarcerated for almost 12 years for a crime he did not commit. The study notes that Australia is yet to adopt new measures that can curb the problem of wrongful convictions (Weathered, 2007). In the United Kingdom, the problem of wrongful convictions still exists. In England, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is an organization mandated to examine court decisions and whether there are miscarriages of justice (Weathered, 2007). The commission investigates cases where there is purported miscarriage of justice.
Balko, D. (2013). Justice delayed is justice denied: wrongful convictions, eyewitness-expert testimony, and recent developments. Suffolk University Law Review, 46(4): 1087 – 1095.
Evianne, J. & wilsem, L. (2014). Wrongful convictions and the Blackstone ratio: an empirical analysis of public attitudes. Punishment & Society, 16(1): 32-49.
Jiang, N. (2013). A comparison of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases between China and the United States. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 41(2): 144 – 166.
Olney, M. & Bonn, S. (2014). An exploratory study of the legal and non-legal factors associated with exoneration for wrongful conviction. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 26(4): 400- 420.
Weathered, L. (2007). Does Australia need a specific institution to correct wrongful convictions? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 40(2): 179-198.
Williamson, E. J., Stricker, J. M., Irazola, S. P., & Niedzwiecki, E. (2016). Wrongful convictions: Understanding the experiences of the original crime victims. Violence and Victims, 31(1), 155-166.