Posted on November 17, 2017 in Crime
The justice system in the United States seeks to maintain social harmony by punishing people who engage in the dangerous antisocial behavior. While the justice system often works as intended and includes many honest, upstanding individuals, errors, misrepresentations, falsehoods, and other unjust elements can and do make their way into the justice system. These problems can lead to false convictions, wrongful imprisonment, and even unjust executions.
The National Registry of Exonerations tracks false convictions and exonerations in the U.S. and points to various factors that contribute to false convictions. The two most common causes of false convictions in the United States are official misconduct and perjury or false accusations. “Official misconduct” refers to any illegal, unethical, or unjustifiable action taken by a member of the justice system that leads to a false conviction. This could include arresting officers, jurors, witnesses, correctional officers, or any other individual involved in a criminal case.
The registry released a report in May of 2017 outlining the major contributing factors to false convictions:
Forensic science involves a wide array of scientific methods for determining the truth in criminal cases. When these methods lead to inaccurate results, innocent people may suffer false convictions or receive harsher penalties than the law dictates they deserve. The term “misapplication of forensic science” is a blanket term that can apply to any such situation. Some examples include:
It is an unfortunate reality that some forensic scientists and other figures in the justice system engage in unethical or illegal actions that lead to false convictions. However, the justice system allows convicted criminals to appeal their cases, and, with sufficient evidence and an experienced criminal defense attorney, they can sometimes secure exonerations for false convictions.