How Often Are Americans Convicted Of Crimes They Did Not Commit?
The city of Chicago has a shameful history when it comes to wrongful convictions. We now know that the Chicago Police Department for some time used coercion and physical brutality to force confessions out of innocent individuals. Already, the city of Chicago has paid out over $670 million dollars in wrongful conviction lawsuits. This figure is expected to increase significantly as a number of inmates who claim they were framed by Sgt. Ronald Watts and Det. Reynaldo Guevara is being released from prison and taking legal action. Our New York criminal defense attorneys discuss wrongful convictions, how often they happen and how they might occur, below.
Wrongful Conviction Statistics
We may never know the true instance of wrongful convictions across America. A study performed by the University of Michigan Law School found that 149 people were cleared for crimes they did not, in fact, commit in the year 2015. This is a sharp increase from the 61 cleared case ten years prior, in 2005.
Wrongful convictions can go undetected for years, with the name of some individuals only cleared after their death. While DNA testing has provided some inmates with a new powerful tool to prove their innocence, many other wrongfully convicted defendants are left with little hope to prove their innocence. Not all cases involve DNA evidence, and often old DNA evidence is too damaged or has been lost within the system. For these reasons, many people who were wrongfully convicted will never get their day in court.
Causes of Wrongful Convictions
Wrongful convictions can stem from many factors, with the most common causes of wrongful convictions including:
- Eyewitness misidentification: Eyewitness misidentification is considered the number one cause of wrongful convictions. Numerous studies have substantiated the vagrancies of eyewitness identification. Several factors can lead to false identification, including poor lighting, suggestive lineup procedures, and much more.
- Questionable forensic science: Juries find forensic science testimony extremely compelling, but when the science is not there to back up the conclusions, the results can be devastating. Many convictions based on fiber, hair, and bite mark evidence are later overturned due to the inaccuracies of the science.
- False confessions: Defendants who are in poor mental health or subjected to coercive interrogations are susceptible to making false confessions. Innocent defendants may find themselves in jail for years or even life after confessing to a crime they did not commit.
Justice does not always prevail in the courtroom. The possibility of a wrongful conviction makes it all the more important that anyone charged with a crime arm themselves with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney from who will strive to protect their legal rights.