There are several factors, including eyewitness misidentification and false confessions that contribute to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.
Thousands of people are currently incarcerated in prisons across the state of Illinois. While many of these people are serving time for committing a serious felony, there are some who maintain their innocence. According to the Innocence Project, 329 people have been set free from their prison sentences after they were found to be wrongfully convicted of the crime they were accused of committing. A surprising 45 of these exonerations occurred in Illinois.
One of these exonerations occurred just recently in 2015, when a man was released after spending more than 28 years in prison. The National Registry of Exonerations reported that when the man was 18 years old, he had made a comment regarding the death of a young girl. Although law enforcement followed up on the comment and deemed it to be irrelevant to the crime, the disabled boy was interrogated for more than 40 hours. He admitted to committing the crime; however, there was no physical or forensic evidence proving he was guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. After intense investigation, the Illinois Innocence Project succeeded at having the DNA evidence from the case tested, which proved the man's innocence.
Research from the Innocence Project reveals several factors that play a large role in erroneously convicting someone of a crime.
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, and contributed to at least 72 percent of the cases that were later overturned. Flaws in the lineup process, as well as limitations of the human memory are responsible for countless cases of mistaken identity. Unintentional leading by lineup administrators, as well as improper lineup organization can cause a witness to choose the wrong person out of a lineup. Although studies show that eyewitness identification and testimony is unreliable and often inaccurate, many courts still allow it to be presented in court as evidence.
Law enforcement coercion or forced testimonies can result in an innocent person admitting to a crime they did not commit. Statistics show that one out of every four people who were wrongfully convicted made false confessions, even though they had no ties to the crime. False confessions occur during intense law enforcement interrogations because of:
- Physical threats or mistreatment
- Threats of a harsher sentence
- Ignorance of the law
- Mental impairment
Some law enforcement agencies use other tactics to coerce testimony from a suspected perpetrator.
Forensic evidence that has been obtained through tests that have not been scientifically validated can provide inaccurate results that may incriminate an innocent person. Furthermore, tests which are proven to yield accurate results may be conducted improperly and provide false results as well. Government misconduct, bad lawyering and the use of informants have been involved in erroneous convictions as well.
Obtaining legal assistance
Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty in the U.S. judicial system. However, in some cases, the innocent are proven guilty by means of faulty procedures and misconduct. If you have been charged with a crime, you may want to carefully consider partnering with a criminal defense attorney who understands the legal process.
The most recent exoneration in Illinois to be listed on the registry of exonerations is the case of Anthony Johnson, who was acquitted by the Illinois Appellate Court on December 31, 2014. He was represented by attorney Stephen L. Richards, richardscriminallaw.com
Keywords: false, confession, eyewitness, testimony, wrongful, conviction