Courts often agree to keep the details about wrongful convictions confidential. But if we’re serious about learning from these tragedies, the public deserves to know more than just the settlement amount paid in its name, argues a Boston defense attorney.
A murder conviction that sent two Florida men to prison for 43 years was reversed last month. The victory illustrates why more prosecutors—and legislators—need to support the still-fragile efforts of conviction integrity units to bring justice to the wrongfully accused, writes a former prosecutor.
Prosecutors’ pursuit of convictions at any cost and public defenders’ insufficient resources have too often combined to thwart defendants’ chances of a fair trial. Here’s an alternative approach proposed by Miami’s public defender and a former deputy assistant attorney general.
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.