The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian


Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction (p4-Final Installment)

posted by Robert Gelinas

This is the final installment of this series of posts on wrongful convictions (Part 1Part 2--Part 3)

How and why do they keep happening?  What’s the “anatomy of a wrongful conviction?”
H. Patrick Furman is a law professor at the University of Colorado School of Law. In a 2003 article for The Colorado Lawyer, he outlined five key factors in the frequency of wrongful convictions.

They are…
    1. Mistaken Identification
    2. Ineffective Representation
    3. Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct
    4. Perjured Testimony, primarily by informants
    5. Corruptions of Scientific Evidence

(For a full explanation of each of these factors you can read his article here)

What’s worse is that the system doesn’t know what to do with innocent people.  We believe that people are innocent until proven guilty; however, on a previous post, an attorney by the name of Marian made this shocking statement: “Defending an innocent client is almost impossible.”  
Here’s the complete comment: 


“As
an attorney, the one client I really hope never to get is a genuinely innocent
one. The criminal law system has no way to handle them. The system is about
making deals. More than 90% of all criminal cases are resolved by plea
bargaining. The innocent defendant has nothing to bargain with. All he can do
is take his chances at trial, and, if he loses, be penalized a lot more heavily
than if he had confessed to some fiction. Evidence is usually provided either
by police officers who are absolutely convinced of the defendant’s guilt or
indifferent to the possibility of his innocence on this particular charge
(“if he didn’t do it this time, he probably got off on something at least
as bad that he DID do”, or by accomplices or jailhouse snitches who have
strong incentives to testify to whatever the prosecutor wants, or by
eyewitnesses who are at least as likely as not to be mistaken. And the cases
are driven by the prosecutor, who has the freedom to decide what offenses to charge,
rather than by the judge, whose sentencing options are almost automated. And,
finally, we have no idea how an innocent person is supposed to behave on trial.
If he protests his innocence, he must be lying. If he merely sits silent and
depressed, that must be consciousness of guilt. If he smiles, confident that
justice will be done, he must be a monster. If he loses control, he’s crazy,
but not legally insane. I know of no law school that teaches its students how
to defend an innocent client. Anybody can defend a guilty defendant. Defending
an innocent client is almost impossible.”





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