Wrongful Convictions- Inmates on Death Row
Lately, there has been an increasing public awareness and significance of wrongful convictions in America. The growing awareness among policy makers and U.S. citizens have resulted mainly due to highly exposed post-conviction DNA exoneration of inmates who served lengthy prison sentences, as well as the growing eradication of the use of death sentence in America. Recent inquiries involving the likelihood of error in capital cases have further helped to create this growing attention - including a sense of urgency - to the problem. A recent study indicates that at least twenty-three innocent citizens have lost their lives through execution. Further research into the issue of errors, on cases filed between 1973 and 1995, indicate that, nearly seven in every ten, capital sentence cases had serious reversible errors, indicating the possibility of numerous cases of wrongful executions and convictions. Although; the errors usually result in numerous wrongful convictions, most do not face life in prison or the death sentence. However, these errors often lead to inmates’ wasting many of their productive years behind bars although it is not warranted. Even as, this happens, the real offenders remain among the public, and are free to commit further crimes, thus posing as a threat to public safety. This paper mainly focuses on wrongfully convicted inmates, particularly those on death row (Huff & Killias, 2010). Cases of wrongful convictions on the part of inmates can be highly traumatizing, given that many of them end up losing their productive years behind bars due to errors in the process of delivering justice. No methodical data exists on wrongful convictions in the U.S.; in addition, no plausible methodology exists for determining the level of wrongful convictions because a greater number of these cases go undiscovered and corresponding surveys of prisoners, for instance, would certainly not have public integrity. Recent DNA testing carried out in 18,000 criminal cases produced extremely shocking results because well over 25 percent of the main suspects ended up being excluded for trial (Huff & Killias, 2010). Moreover, as most criminal cases do not involve the use of biological evidence to be tested, studies speculate that the rates of errors in most cases are quite high. Certainly, this grave problem raises numerous questions regarding the correctness and consistency of the criminal justice system in the U.S. Research has established that the main factors leading to wrongful convictions in the U.S. include coerced or false confessions and suggestive interrogations; eyewitness error; forensic science errors, fraud and incompetence; misleading lineups; improper use of informants; overzealous prosecutors or law enforcement officers; pressure from community for a conviction; and the “ratification of error”. Often, the problem arises due to a number of factors; besides, interaction effects between these factors could also contribute to the problem (Huff & Killias, 2010). Coerced or false confessions and suggestive interrogations are a significant factor contributing to wrongful convictions. Several law enforcement departments in the U.S. appear to be particularly inclined to unprincipled behavior. Some like the “elitist” department seem to have more autonomy as compared to other departments. A few of these departments include the street gang departments and the elite narcotics departments. Several officers have even openly confessed to giving false testimonies that lead to several convictions. Eyewitness error also contributes to quite a number of wrongful. A recent survey indicated that eyewitness error contributes to the highest number of wrongful convictions in the U.S. Many scholars have researched on eyewitness error especially with a focus on how societal, psychological, system and cultural factors can affect eyewitness perception. Moreover, the...
References: Huff, C. R. & Killias, M. (2010). Wrongful conviction: International perspectives on miscarriages of justice. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Leo, R. A. & Gould, J. B. (2009). Studying wrongful convictions: Learning from social science. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 7 (7), 7-30.
New England Innocence Project. (2011). Causes of wrongful conviction. Retrieved from http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/knowledge-center/causes/
Westervelt, S. D. & Humphrey, J. A. (2001). Wrongly convicted: Perspectives on failed justice. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
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