Posts Tagged ‘exonerations’

Phil Locke of the Ohio Innocence Project and Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic on how the justice system frequently ignores guilt or innocence, Comment on the Nature and State of the (US) Justice System.

Also a great read, the story of Lorinda Swain who was recently exonerated after spending more than 7 years in jail.  She was freed 6 years after a judge said that there was a “significant probability” she was innocent.

Finally cleared, years after judge first ruled her guilt was dubious…

 

In most exonerations, the wrong person was convicted for a crime that occurred, but in a rapidly growing minority, the defendant was convicted for a crime that never happened.  These are known as No-Crime cases.  According to a recent study, they account for 22% of known exonerations.  The largest numbers are sex abuse cases, followed by homicides.

Currently, we know of more wrongful convictions then we ever have, but there are still many we do not know about.  The statistics are striking.  In 2005, only 4% of all exonerations were no crime cases, 7 years later, they accounted for 15%, and today, they account for 22%.  In general, no-crime exonerations suffer from the same issue as non-DNA exonerations, less attention.  The cases that do get minute coverage by media organizations are for cases where the real perpetrator got away.

Examples of no crime cases include the second trial acquittal of Sheila Bryan, who spent two years in prison.  Her conviction was overturned because of improperly admitted evidence; Medell Banks, who spent two years in prison.  His conviction was overturned because of false testimony; or Kristine Bunch, who spent 17 years in prison.  Her conviction was overturned because of misleading forensics and government misconduct.

Rob Warden, the Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, and who recently authored a study on How and Why Illinois Abolished the Death Penalty, is stepping down.  He recently spoke about the work of the center and others who are finding and trying to free innocent people imprisoned in America.  Warden, over his career, has helped exonerate 60 people, many of which were sentenced to death for a crime they didn’t commit.  He noted the exposure of non-DNA innocence cases because of the discovery of DNA:

“Part of it was the fortuitous advent of DNA forensic technology, which suddenly showed that many people had been wrongfully convicted. And that, in turn, gave credence to the non-DNA cases where there was persuasive evidence of wrongful convictions. It just changed the momentum.”

He talked about exposing the flaws in the justice system, “[V]irtually nobody believed that people would confess to crimes they hadn’t committed. We have been extremely important in exposing the phenomenon of false confessions and the psychological phenomena that lead to it. And we’ve exposed the fallacies of evidence that were often used to convict people, including misinterpretations of forensic results and the use of so-called jailhouse snitch testimony. People never really took that seriously until we started showing that they were leading to serious miscarriages of justices.”

Four decades and 60 exonerations later, Rob Warden is stepping down as Executive Director, but there is still progress that needs to be made for innocent defendants and the wrongfully convicted.