Predicting Wrongful Convictions


There are ten factors that help explain why an innocent defendant may end up erroneously convicted rather than released, according to a new study from researchers at American University.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice, looked at 460 erroneous convictions and “near misses,” in which “factually innocent” defendants were released or acquitted post-indictment.

Factors that led to a wrongful conviction instead of an acquittal included:

  • A younger defendant
  • A criminal history
  • A weak prosecution case
  • Prosecution withheld evidence
  • Lying by a non-eyewitness
  • Unintentional witness misidentification
  • Misinterpreting forensic evidence at trial
  • A weak defense
  • Defendant offered a family witness
  • A “punitive” state culture

In addition, a panel of criminal justice experts explored how “tunnel vision” among police and prosecutors can exacerbate the ten factors that lead to erroneous convictions.

Read the full study HERE.

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