Wrongfully Convicted: Sending Innocent People To Prison

There are flaws in the judicial system that can lead to the wrongful incrimination and incarceration of innocent people.

While many people in Colorado and across the country maintain their innocence when they are convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison time, some people are truly victims of wrongful conviction. Approximately 329 people have been exonerated from prison after DNA evidence showed that they were actually innocent of the crime they were accused of committing.

For one Colorado man, this exoneration came after he lost 17 years of his life in prison. He was wrongfully charged and convicted of a sexual assault and first-degree murder. The forensic DNA testing that was available at the time of his trial showed that blood found on innocent man's shirt matched the victim, the suspect and at least 45 percent of the population. It also showed that DNA found under the victims fingernails and semen found on a blanket at the crime scene did not match the suspect. The man, however, was convicted based on the circumstantial evidence and the fact that the suspect gave officers a fake name when being questioned. After the DNA evidence was retested years later, the real perpetrator was found and the innocent man was freed from prison.

Factors leading to wrongful conviction

There are several different factors that may increase the potential of a wrongful conviction. According to the Innocence Project, these include:

  • Improper use of forensic testing or use of unvalidated testing procedures. For example, tests such as bite mark comparisons, hair microscopy and shoe print comparisons have yet to be validated as reliable. On the other hand, blood typing and other valid testing procedures may be poorly performed and give inaccurate results.
  • Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. Substantial evidence shows that flaws in the lineup process and in the way people store and remember vital information regarding crime may cause a person to name an innocent person as the perpetrator of a crime.
  • Informants may offer information regarding a suspect in exchange of special treatment, a plea deal or other incentives.
  • False confessions made by innocent people may be the product of officer coercion, mental impairment, confusion, language barriers or ignorance regarding the process.

Although multiple, credible studies have been conducted on these processes, some jurisdictions in Washington and across the country still allow the use of these factors in court.

Partnering with a criminal defense attorney

If you have been accused of committing a serious crime, you may want to partner with an attorney who can help you defend your rights in court. A criminal defense attorney in Washington may play a vital role in helping you build a strong defense after carefully evaluating the facts of your case.

Keywords: wrongful, conviction, evidence, incarceration