Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wrongful Convictions: A Plague to Justice

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 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: 

"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" -"
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. 



  1. This blog touches a very sensitive subject because everybody believes they are wrongfully accused. Its said because some people are actually innocent and it takes up to 13 years before they are said to be innocent. Let's face our Criminal Justice system is and has been flawed since the beginning. There has always been unlawful convictions, searches and arrest. What is even more said is that there has not been many changes. If the system has designed a way to improve, it is most certainly not working.
    Just to hint on something, in every case there is person who gets charged. He is called the "Fallman". Now the fallman is designed to take the blame of the crime whether guilty or innocent. However the fallman doesnt know he is that until he is sitting in prison serving a term. I like the whole idea of exonerating a person but let's face it, the person exonerated missed out on years of freedom. Even worse than that, some are sentenced to death and later are proved innocent. The only way to stop this situation is for the criminal justice system to get better. The sad thing is, this ay never happen.

  2. It is extremely disappointing when people are convicted of crimes they did not commit, especially when they are sentenced to death and executed just to find out later that they did not do it. Then there are the people who spend numerous years in prison that they will never be able to get back. Yes, it is a good thing when they are exonerated but at the same time they still have spent years incarcerated. You listed a number of reasons why people are falsely convicted and each, to me, isn't a good reason. We know that eye witnesses are not reliable or accurate and when it comes to forensics and lawyers the people in those positions should be sufficiently trained because of what they are dealing with. Obviously the systems flaws cannot be fixed overnight but it is unfortunate that it is as flawed as it is.

  3. It is so scary to hear that 289 people have been wrongfully convicted. It is awful that innocent people are behind bars while the violent offenders are still on the streets. In a way, I feel that it is good that they took away the death penalty due to the fact that there are numerous amounts of people being charged for crimes they never committed. I hope that future research will continue to help develop a better criminal justice system. Overall, I found this particular article to be very interesting and a huge eye opener for our society.

  4. I have read time and time again about wrongful convictions in Illinois. I remember reading about a man who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit only to be exonerated because of DNA evidence. We live in a time where DNA can make or break a case. We also have a criminal justice system that is over flooded with appeals. I really do not have a answer to what can prevent this from happening. In your article you stated that seventeen people were wrongfully executed and it is truly disheartening. At times it seems that our system is a guilty until proven innocent mentality instead of the other way around. The Innocence Project is something that is trying to rectify and restore justice to these people.