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Wrongly Convicted? It Can Happen and Here’s How

Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The best legal representation doesn’t always protect someone accused of a crime from being wrongfully convicted. Despite the use of modern surveillance and DNA evidence, a jury convicting an innocent person can still and does happen on occasion. Here are the top six causes of wrongful convictions by a jury.

  1. False confessions

Innocent people often say incriminating things while being questioned by law enforcement. People will sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit, even pleading guilty, either because they believe they have no choice or they are pressured into making confessions with the prospect that pleading guilty will result in a less severe penalty than if they fight charges.

  1. Government official misconduct

While the majority of prosecutors I have worked with over the years have been highly professional and ethical, occasionally government officials will push for a conviction when desperately searching for a guilty party.

  1. Eyewitness misidentification

Eyewitness identification can be a useful evidentiary tool in a case. However, misidentified suspects are the most common cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S. Memories are flawed, can fade over time and police may use misleading lineups.

  1. Untested or unproven “junk science”

“Junk science” is a term used to describe untested or unproven forensic testing methods. This unreliable information is often presented in testimony by forensic analysts, making a defendant appear guilty. This can occur due to a lack of research, or even misconduct on the part of the analyst.

  1. Informants with incentives

An informant’s testimony can sway an entire case against a defendant. Some informants are given incentives to testify against a defendant in payment or favors and many times juries never know of these incentives.

  1. Negligence, errors or misconduct by the lawyer

A defendant relies on their lawyer to give them important information and guide them in decision-making. However, a lawyer may fail to call witnesses, investigate fully or prepare for court, leaving their client vulnerable. On the other hand, prosecutor misconduct or errors can also influence a case.

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