Eassy 1 Essay Example

  • Category:
    Law
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
  • Page:
    3
  • Words:
    1852

Introduction

Over the years, there have been many cases of innocent individuals who are wrongfully convicted and end up spending many years behind bars. They undergo difficult agony prison life that is associated with loss of freedom following the wrongful conviction. They are denied many years of friends, ability to establish their professional life and most all their beloved families. Even after their release, the nightmares of their wrongful convictions do not end (Weathered, 2013). They are faced with many challenges such as lack of money, professional career, health services, decent housing and most of all a criminal record that they did not deserve. Moreover, they undergo mental torture from the punishment of wrongful conviction. This essay will discuss practical and/or procedural strategies that could be implemented to reduce the likelihood of wrongful conviction while restricting the focus onto one stage in the criminal justice.

What is wrongful conviction?

According to Deskovic (2012), wrongful conviction refers to a criminal conviction of an innocent individual. It is a conviction whereby someone who was not involved in an actual crime is found guilty in the crime. Moreover, this concurs with Irazola et al. (2013), who noted that wrongful conviction is the case whereby a government entity has determined that an individual originally convicted on facts basis, had not committed the crime.

Causes of wrongful conviction and addressing it

Not only do wrongful convictions devastate an innocent person life and that of their beloved families, but they also diminish the integrity of justice system of a country as well as harming the public good. Following wrongful convictions, public safety is put at risk, police are led away from the real perpetrators of the crime and most of all justice is not achieved. Following this, wrongful convictions can be attributed to several causes.

First, victim misidentification is a major cause of wrongful convictions. According to Deskovic (2012), it’s the leading cause of wrongful conviction. Deskovic noted that the public and courts have placed much faith in testimonial evidence of victims who identify perpetrators. The evidence provided is deemed to very reliable. However, through DNA exonerations, eyewitness identification is the least reliable form of evidence. Deskovic noted that out of 290 DNA-based exonerations, misidentification was the lead cause of wrongful conviction. For instance, in New York, fourteen out of twenty-eight DNA wrongful convictions were caused by misidentification (Roman, 2012). Psychologists argue that people have a mental framework that is centered on the specific theme for organizing social information. However, when confronted with situations that are unclear, the mind tends to fill in the gaps. Through this phenomenon, victims will recall a perpetrator’s physical appearance when only sketchy details are available. Victims may not be lying but they have difficulty differentiating between what they actually remember from the missing details in their minds (Tuckey & Brewer, 2003).

Mistaken witness ID has been attributed to one on the major causes of wrongful conviction worldwide. Besides eye witnessing testimony being persuasive evidence before a jury or a judge, 30 years of research conducted by social scientist have proven that it’s often unreliable (Western Michigan University, 2017). In the United States, mistaken witness ID contributed to approximately 71% of more than 300 wrongful convictions that are later overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence. According to research, the human mind is not like a video tape recorder whereby one cannot record the events exactly as they occur or recall them like a tape when rewound. Western Michigan University noted that scientific research has proven that human memory is a dynamic, constructive and selective process that is bound to influence by many factors. Over time, eyewitness evidence is subject to distortion, contamination or even degrades.

Secondly, official misconduct also leads to wrongful conviction. Even though law enforcement officers and prosecutors have best intentions of protecting the society, they are sometimes under pressure to secure a conviction (O’Hara & Stith, 2008). The resulting pressure may lead them to act in unfair, inappropriate, or even unlawful manner. Withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, deliberate mishandling or mistreatment of culprits, coercing false confessions, fabricating evidence, coercive investigations by investigators or even suggestive means of acquiring evidence are some of the misconduct practice employed by police officers or prosecutors and can lead to wrongful convictions. Despite a majority of enforcement officers and prosecutors being honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is bound to possibilities of negligence, misconduct and even corruption that may lead to a wrongful conviction (Rucke, 2013).

Further, misapplication of forensic science is a major cause of wrongful conviction. According to New England Innocence (2017), it is the second most contributing factor of wrongful convictions. Research has proven that over several attempts, some of the forensic methods used in criminal investigations are inconsistent in producing accurate results. Moreover, forensic practitioners are bound to make mistakes such as including mix up of samples and even contaminating specimens

Additionally, incentivized witnessing is another cause of wrongful conviction. This refers to witnesses being provided with offers such as money, reduction of punishments, immunity from prosecution, release from prison while others even benefit in exchange for testimony. Desperate incentivized witnesses with no truthful information to offer often result to lying. This concurs with Innocent Project (2017), who noted that witnesses who are not in prison already and are avoiding being charged with a crime may opt to provide false testimony. Moreover, some witnesses may voluntarily come forward where they often seek special treatments or even deals. Law enforcement officers may also at sometimes seek informants who they give extensive background information on cases by feeding them with the information they need to provide false testimonies (Innocent Project, 2017).

Practical/procedural strategies that have been shown to increase like hood of just outcome

To enhance likely hood of a just outcome, several practical/procedural strategies exist. First, for the case of incentivized witnesses, the informants should be secretly wired to enable electronic recording of the incriminating statements. Additionally, law enforcement officers should electronically record testimonies of potential informants and provide copies to defendant lawyers (Deskovic, 2012). Currently, the world has witnessed great technological advances that are making it possible to wire informants with compact a transmitting device that seems as innocent objects. Moreover, incentivized witnesses can be reduced by ensuring pre-plea and pre-trial reliability/collaboration hearing for all the informants. Pre-plea and pre-trial hearings assess the credibility of the content of the testimony should be held in all circumstances where informant testimony is intended for use at trial or even in relation to the plea agreement (Naughton, 2014). Further, elimination of incentives/rewards for testimonies may contribute to a just outcome. Incentives are a major contribution to fabricated testimonies.

For witness misidentification, several techniques that ensure a just outcome can be used. First through blinded administration where the law enforcement officer administering a lineup is unaware who the suspect is and prohibited from making suggestive statements, unconscious gestures, or even vocal comments, which are aimed at influencing the decision by the witness thereby reducing the risks of misidentification (Morgan, 2014). Additionally, giving instructions to the person viewing the lineup may contribute to a just outcome. The witnesses should be told that the crime perpetrators may or may not be in the lineup. This helps in reducing pressure on the witness of picking the perpetrator. Moreover, the witness choosing the perpetrator can also be instructed to avoid looking at the enforcement officer for guidance (Johnson, 2016). Further, identification of perpetrators should be recorded at all times whenever possible.

In the case of misapplication of forensic science, there is the need for commitment of reforms at all levels of the justice level (Findley, 2001). There is need to establish an independent science agency with the required expertise to conduct scientific evaluations of forensic disciplines. Moreover, scientific research in forensic should be increased with the aim of stabling a stable forensic science discipline. Further, the judicial forensic officers should be well trained to ensure that future forensic decisions are well established.

Further, on cases that have established that there were incidences of official misconduct, the cases should resume as new trials (Ramsey, & Frank, 2007). Official misconduct causes influence to judges and perjury not only to perceive the facts presented but also the manner in which they view the defendant. Moreover, intentional official misconduct should be criminalized. There is need to create legislations that criminalize intentional, clear government official misconduct that leads to wrongful misconduct (Taylor George, 2015). In the case of prosecutors, the legislations should be enacted in a manner that they prevent other rogue prosecutors to engage in the unethical and illegal behavior.

Conclusion

Too many innocent people are suffering in prisons due to wrongful convictions. Even though there will be errors in the judicial process, innocent people are ending up serving prison terms they did not deserve. This calls for inclusive reforms that will ensure just outcomes in every case. Moreover, there is need to educate public on issues relating to wrongful convictions. Wrongful conviction crusaders such as Innocent Project should make it their goal to promote the fundamental of justice to all by advocating that it is worse to convict innocent people than letting the guilty walk free.

References

Deskovic, J. (2012). Wrongful Convictions – Systematic Causes and Suggested Remedies (1st ed.). http://www.thejeffreydeskovicfoundationforjustice.org/uploads/file/f9719f40455945b7b415 479fcd2bfbee/JeffsThesis.pdf

Findley, K. A. (2001). Learning from our mistakes: A criminal justice commission to study wrongful convictions. Cal. WL Rev., 38, 333.

Innocent Project. (2017). Incentivized Informants — Innocence Project. Innocence Project. Retrieved 24 April 2017, from https://www.innocenceproject.org/causes/incentivized- informants/

Irazola, S., Williamson, E., Stricker, J., Niedzwiecki, E., ICF International (formerly Caliber Associates), & United States of America. (2013). Study of Victim Experiences of Wrongful Conviction.

Johnson, L. (2016). Is There a Cure for Wrongful Convictions?. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 April 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorenzo-johnson/is-there-a-cure-for- wrong_b_10162246.html

Morgan, B. L. A. (2014). Wrongful Convictions: Reasons, Remedies, and Case Studies (Doctoral dissertation, Appalachian State University). Retrieved 22 April 2017, from https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/asu/f/Morgan,%20Brittnay_2014_Thesis.pdf

Naughton, M. (2014). Criminologizing Wrongful Convictions. British Journal Of Criminology, 54(6), 1148-1166. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azu060

New England Innocence. (2017). Causes of Wrongful Convictions. New England Innocence Project. Retrieved 22 April 2017, from http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/causes-of- wrongful-convictions/

O’Hara, J., & Stith, J. (2008). Trial set for Brown’s damages: Man wrongly convicted of murder seeks $5 million from the state. The Post-Standard, pp. B1

Ramsey, R., & Frank, J. (2007). Wrongful Conviction: Perceptions of Criminal Justice Professionals Regarding the Frequency of Wrongful Conviction and the Extent of System Errors. Crime & Delinquency, 53(3), 436-470. Retrieved 22 April 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011128706286554

Roman, J. (2012). Post-conviction DNA testing and wrongful conviction (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.

Rucke, K. (2013). Report Recommends Ways To Reduce Wrongful Convictions. MintPress News. Retrieved 24 April 2017, from http://www.mintpressnews.com/report- recommends-ways-to-reduce-wrongful-convictions/174199

Taylor George, C. (2015). Wrongful Convictions and Due Process Violations. Law Enforcement Executive Forum, 15(4). Retrieved 22 April 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.19151/leef.2015.1504f

Tuckey, M.R., & Brewer, N. (2003). The influence of schemas, stimulus ambiguity, and interview schedule on eyewitness memory over time. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 9(2), 101-118.

Weathered, L. (2013). Wrongful Convictions in Australia. University of Cincinnati Law Review, 80(4), 16.

Western Michigan University. (2017). Retrieved 22 April 2017, from https://wmich.edu/sociology/causes-wrongful-conviction