Wrongful Conviction: It Could Happen to YOU!

There is an organization called the Innocence Project.  Take a look at their site and statistics, you might find some of it enlightening.

The Innocence Project exists because so many innocent people have been found guilty of crimes they did not commit.  Most of us never think about this.  Some just don’t realize this happens (the reason for my post is to educate) and many believe that if a person was arrested that they must be guilty. Others feel powerless to do anything about it.  How do you change a broken system?  Others just do not care as long as it doesn’t affect them, they don’t have to think about it.

According to Acker and Redlich (2011, p.13),

  • “Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.”
  • “[U]nvalidated or improper forensic science…is the second-greatest contributor to wrongful convictions.  In more than 50% of DNA exonerations, unvalidated or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction.”
  • “False confessions:  “In about 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.””
  • “In more than 15% of cases of wrongful conviction overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jailhouse snitch testified against the defendant.”
  • “Government misconduct: “The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are replete with evidence of fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments…””
  • “Bad Lawyering: One of the contributing factors to wrongful convictions exposed through DNA analysis is representation “by ineffective, incompetent or over-burdened defense lawyer.  The failure of overworked lawyers to investigate, call witnesses or prepare for trial has led to the conviction of innocent people….”

We will come back to why I am blogging about this, but for now, more about me.

When I went into Law Enforcement I was naive.  I thought that Police Agencies did their best (some candidates are great deceivers) to hire smart, educated, ethical individuals.  I was so wrong about this.  Some agencies do a good job, but others are only as good as their human resource department, IF they have one.

Mark Baker (1985), Author of COPS made an observation that I have found to be very accurate in my own experience.  Baker observed that, “In any department, anywhere, you can take 5 percent of the cops and they will be honest under any circumstances and they’ll never do anything wrong. They are the priests of the department. 5 percent on the other end of the spectrum would have been criminals had they not become policemen. They are in fact, criminals who happen to be cops. The remaining 90 percent will go whichever way the peer pressure goes.”

IN ANY ORGANIZATION THIS CAN OCCUR.  Organizational culture is a difficult thing.  Most times, the head of the organization sets the tone and example for everyone else.

Not only do Police procedures and actions contribute to wrongful convictions, but so do Prosecutors.  Most of the time their conviction rate (higher is better) is what gets them re-elected.  It’s all about the politics.  They do not prosecute the cases they think they might lose.  When they have convicted someone, and new evidence is discovered, ego can get in the way of justice.

Then there are the Judges.  Once a conviction has occurred they are not necessarily interested in wasting their time granting Due Process that could help a prisoner prove his actual innocence.  Judges also do not like to step on other judges’ toes (by criticizing or overturning their rulings), especially if they work together.  There is also ego here.  Who can tell a Judge he’s wrong?  If they do not use their role properly as impartial triers of fact, it is unlikely that Due Process (a Civil Right) or justice will occur.  Many are not impartial.  This can result in wrongly incarcerated persons NEVER receiving justice.  They lose their freedom, reputation, their livelihood, and many times their family.  Life in prison is very dangerous.  If you doubt me, check out this blog, written by the sister of an innocent man chronicling his experiences. Freedom for 50.  This is only one of many.

Stanley Denhof is a victim of S.A.I.D Syndrome click on the link to read more about it.  I have also read all the reports and case information including the “forensics”.  I have attended court hearings, and read all the court filings.  As a former police officer/detective and somewhat intelligent…I have been utterly appalled at how obvious his innocence is, the extreme efforts people go to for revenge.  Equally disgusting is how some lawyers take clients money and don’t do the job, and how Prosecutors and Judges can live with themselves and continue to block minimal Due Process (a civil right) owed to every human being.  If this can happen to a man who finally divorced his wife (who vowed to ruin his life) over her numerous affairs, it could happen to you.

Just a caveat…I am not anti-police.  I am not anti-court system.  I am not anti-government.

I am anti-corruption, anti-falsehood, anti-injustice, and anti-criminality within the justice system.

I am in favor of changing laws that give these Public Officials immunity when it is later found that they knew or should have known that the conviction was politically motivated.  There should not be immunity when a witness is discovered to be lying (but the judge did not do anything about it), or when ANY official commits Brady Violations (withholding evidence that could prove that the defendant is innocent).

Something else to think about.  In a sexual assault case…where there is a wrongful conviction…if there is no DNA there is likely no exoneration either and a possibility that a sexual assault never occurred, especially in a S.A.I.D. case.

Public Officials involved in the Court system need to remember.  If you convict the wrong person, the real perpetrator is still out there.  There is NO justice in this.

Remember a wrongful conviction could happen to you, all it takes is to piss off the wrong person or one of the 5% (the criminal element that can hide in plain site in any organization).

I’ll leave you with this Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

References

  • Acker, J. R., & Redlich, A. D. (2011). Wrongful conviction: Law, science, and policy. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Anonymous. (1985). Baker, mark, author. COPS: Lives in their own words. Wilmette: Hendon Publishing Company

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