5 Common Reasons Why People Are Wrongfully Convicted
In a perfect world, only guilty people would be convicted of crimes and sent to prison. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world — not by a long shot.
In fact, all it takes is one mistaken eyewitness, a single piece of bad evidence or one corrupt law enforcement officer to put an innocent person behind bars for a very long time. New York alone has had many documented cases in which wrongly convicted individuals were freed after years or decades in prison, often exonerated by DNA evidence.
While we would like to think that there are safeguards in place to avoid problems like wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system, the truth is that they occur far more often than many know — and for a variety of reasons. For instance, some of the common causes of wrongful convictions include:
- Official misconduct: This includes situations in which police officers, prosecutors and other government officials may have abused their authority or manipulated the judicial process, including actions such as withholding evidence, destroying evidence, coercing false confessions, lying to or misleading jurors and using evidence and/or forensics they know to be fraudulent and incorrect.
- False confessions: When a crime is committed, police officers and prosecutors often do everything they can to hold someone accountable. Unfortunately, those accused can often feel pressured into giving a confession, even if they are innocent and the confession is false. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including fear of violence, duress, ignorance of the law or the threat of a more severe sentence is they do not confess.
- Witness misidentification: In some cases, a witness may simply have a bad memory. In other instances, the witness may be shown a photo lineup in such a way that they are “encouraged” to pick a certain individual. Sometimes, they are even asked to identify the alleged perpetrator at the scene of the crime after the accused is already in the back of a cop car.
- Misleading or false forensic evidence: Contrary to what we often see on television, forensic evidence is not always 100 percent trustworthy. There are several situations in which wrongfully convicted individuals are eventually set free after it is discovered that the forensic testing used to convict them was done erroneously, based on unproven methods or outright fraudulent.
- Perjury: Another reason why wrongful convictions occur is when a witness commits perjury, which means he or she makes a false statement under other that incriminates — and ultimately helps convict — the person accused of the criminal offense.
Some wrongful conviction cases will involve one, or several, of the reasons mentioned above. While many wrongful convictions can be attributed to honest mistakes on the part of witnesses, others are blatant and borderline malicious. Indeed, it is disturbing just how many wrongful convictions cases involve deliberate official misconduct or simple indifference to doing things the right way.
Legal Assistance Is Available To Help You Move Forward
If you or a loved has been wrongfully convicted of a criminal offense in New York, you may be entitled to financial compensation under state law, particularly if your conviction involved official misconduct by police or other government officials.
To learn more, contact the wrongful conviction attorneys at Edelman & Edelman, P.C., today. Our lawyers will review the circumstances of your case and help determine whether you may be entitled to seek compensation. You will never be able to get those lost years back, but we can help you seek justice now. You can reach us online or by phone at 212-235-1197.