Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how many innocent people are behind bars at any given time. Many guilty people vehemently proclaim their innocence while those falsely convicted are too scared or powerless to speak up. However, a relatively new joint project between the law schools at the University of Michigan and Northwestern Universty is making progress in gathering and publishing information about exonerations of wrongly-convicted individuals from the last 25 years. Using this data, they draw come conclusions about why people are falsely convicted in the first place.
Common Causes of Unjustified Convictions
Looking at data from 1,600 exonerations since 1989, the National Registry of Exonerations finds that most convictions are overturned for one or more of a small number of reasons. It logically follows that these factors are also probably the most common errors made during criminal trials:
- Perjury or False Accusation. A person falsely accuses the defendant of committing the crime either in sworn testimony or otherwise.
- Official Misconduct. Police or prosecutors significantly abuse their authority or the judicial process in a manner that contributes to a conviction.
- Mistaken Witness Identification. At least one witness mistakenly identifies the defendant as a person he or she saw commit the crime.
- False or Misleading Forensic Evidence. The conviction is based at least in part on forensic information that was caused by errors in forensic testing, based on unreliable or unproven methods, or fraudulent.
- False Confessions. The defendant makes a false statement to authorities which was treated as a confession; the authorities claim that the defendant made such a statement but the defendant denies it; or the defendant makes a statement that is not an admission of guilt, but is misinterpreted as such by the authorities.
Regrettably, other factors can also lead to a false conviction depending on the circumstances of your individual case. This is why it is important to build a strong defense, and have someone supporting you throughout the case. Contact us today and see how we can help you avoid a wrongful conviction. Trust us—even if you’re charged with a minor offense, you don’t want to deal with the consequences of a conviction. Contact us now. You’ll be glad you did!