Wrongful convictions are sadly not as rare as we might expect. As much as we’d like to believe our justice system is fair and accurate, the truth is that miscarriages of justice are commonplace. Criminal investigations are complex, and unfortunately this means that mistakes, falsifications and misconduct can lead to a damning conviction for the innocent. Here we take a look at some of the reasons wrongful convictions occur.
False Witness Testimony
Witness testimony can be a useful piece of evidence, but it can also be majorly flawed. When investigators are unsure what happened or who was involved in a case, witnesses can provide key details and information. This can be an issue if people lie or do not tell the truth about what they saw, for example putting someone at the scene to frame them for the crime. Even if witnesses are telling the truth, memory and recall is not always 100% reliable.
False confessions can be a major problem in wrongful convictions. When faced with supposedly insurmountable evidence, suspects may feel like a confession is their only option. Some are under so much pressure from police interviewers that signing a confession is the only way they can escape – questioning can go on for hours and hours with little access to food, water and comfort. However once that confession is signed, it is incredibly difficult to convince people of your innocence.
In some cases, witnesses and experts give false testimony during a trial. This can be for a number of reasons, but often they are incentivised to do so. These incentives are often not disclosed to the jury, but their statements be used to convict an innocent person. Bias can also be a factor in their testimony – for example, an expert is unlikely to disagree with the person who hired them as it may limit their employment in the future.
Although most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trustworthy, there are some who lose sight of their duties and do not conduct themselves properly. Negligence, corruption and misconduct can be an issue in some cases, and this is often proven through DNA evidence.
Some forensic techniques such as hair microscopy, handwriting analysis and shoe print comparisons have not been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. Meanwhile, techniques that have been validated, e.g. blood typing, are occasionally improperly conducted. For example a lab technician may contaminate a sample with DNA from another piece of evidence. In exceptional cases, forensic analysts have even fabricated results entirely.
If you’ve been wrongfully convicted, get in touch with ICFECI today. Our forensic experts can uncover evidence that could help your case and prove your innocence.