As a debate about the number of wrongful convictions, sparked by Prof. Paul Cassell of Utah, quietly percolates among U.S. scholars, a TCR columnist suggests the argument misses the point entirely: the numbers are less important than making sure they don’t happen.
The “piecemeal” approach by state and federal court approach to addressing trial-level errors fails to account for the complex ways that seemingly independent errors interact with one another, writes a professor at the Northeastern University School of Law.
In most jurisdictions, drug arrests are based on cheap, error-prone field tests, and should the defendant plead guilty to the charge, no further testing occurs, writes the director of the National Registry of Exonerations. As a result, there is no telling how many people live with the consequences of conviction for a crime they never committed.
When exonerated individuals finally leave prison, they are often free in name only. For many of them, the struggle to find employment, housing and mental health treatment is the “stuff of nightmares,” writes a former Baltimore public defender.
With a goal of preventing wrongful convictions, the newly signed legislation requires Louisiana police agencies to adopt best practices on eyewitness identification procedures. Data suggests misidentifications were a factor in nearly three-quarters of the 2,000 known exonerations in the U.S. since 1989.
Three big-city prosecutors who have formed special units to review—and correct—errors made by their offices say a “cultural shift” is necessary to persuade politicians, police and their own attorneys that it is more important to avoid mistakes than to simply win convictions.
Roger Dean Gillispie was found guilty of rape, even though he didn’t match eyewitness descriptions, and the evidence made clear he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. He spent more than 20 years behind bars until the Ohio Supreme Court this year gave him back his freedom. The director of the Ohio Innocence Project, who worked on his case, tells the story.
After a murder conviction is overturned, how eager are prosecutors to reexamine the evidence and find the real killer? A journalist who investigated 263 vacated cases around the nation since 2006 says it happens rarely.
Sixty-three people have sought relief under a 2004 law that allows up to $500,000 in compensation for wrongful convictions. Twenty-three cases have been settled for sums ranging from $60,000 to the legal maximum, and 17 others are pending. One critic says that the $500,000 maximum is inadequate.
A record number of people wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated in 2015, with 42 wrongful convictions in Houston’s Harris County drug cases boosting the nationwide tally to 149, says the National Registry of Exonerations’ annual report. The Texas Tribune says the most exonerations, 105, were in homicide and drug cases. Texas led in overall exonerations with 54, followed in distant second by New York with 17. Last year’s record barely exceeds the 139 exonerations documented in 2014. The Texas […]