Does the American Justice System promote a system of equality for everyone that lives within it's reaches? Optimistically, one would hope that the system in place to keep society safe would give equal treatment to all, but one must question, in practice this is true?
Numerous cases of those who were wrongfully convicted have flooded the papers in recent times. Fortunately, since we now know these people were wrongfully convicted they have finally been given their freedom back. Modern advances in technology and groups like the Innocentproject.org have increased the number of exonerations in recent years. Sadly since DNA testing has been implemented, 17 people have been executed only to later find out through DNA evidence that they were in fact innocent. This brings up all sorts of other questions about the death penalty in general, for the sake of brevity I will not indulge in that specific debate at this time. There are many reasons why a wrongful conviction can happen. The Innocence Project is an organization that's sole purpose is to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. To this day, there has been 289 people who have been released from prison because they had been wrongfully convicted. The organization breaks up the reason of possible wrongful conviction into the following categories:
- Eyewitness Misidentification
- Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
- False Confessions / Admissions
- Government Misconduct
- Informants or Snitches
- Bad Lawyering
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that
one innocent suffer" - William Blackstone
Why really does this happen in America? The system is not fair to those who do not have the knowledge or proper resources to defend themselves. There are not any multi-millionaires or ex-Heisman winners on this list because they have proper funds to hire adequate lawyers to properly defend them. One can wonder if the system is much too lenient to those with money or rather much to harsh to those without but a safe guess would be that the true answer will lay somewhere in the middle.
Another troubling statistic about wrongful convictions is the fact that the average person will spend at least 13 years in prison before they are exonerated. This shows a system that is unwilling of change or even certain people of power being resistant of the process because of the fear of admitting their mistakes. Even furthering troubling is that about 70% percent of the people who were wrongfully convicted were part of a minority group. Is this blatant racism? It is at least proof that the system is not kind to minorities.
"17 people were sentenced to death before they were exonerated" - Innocenceproject.org"
There is something the public can do. One may not be able to change the justice system overnight but they can pressure their representatives to take action against some of the atrocious mistakes that have been made. Many groups are out there to help and they all can use volunteers to help them accomplish their goals and help fight for a very noble cause. My hope is that with the furthering of scientific evidence that it will become harder to make such substantial mistakes. In Illinois alone 34 innocent men and women were exonerated with the help of the center on wrongful convictions. If you want more information on this specific organization here is their link:Center on Wrongful Convictions. Here are some faces of those who have been exonerated in Illinois.