The world over, people are wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes every day. This has always been a distinct possibility in any legal system, but it is true that it is now more common than ever, and happens in more countries than ever before. By looking at some of the statistics relating to some of the common causes of wrongful conviction, we can come to understand more fully what it is that drives this unhealthy social trend. This should put us in a better position to stop this happening again as much as we can in future – and that will certainly be beneficial for the years ahead, and for future generations. Let’s take a look at the common causes of wrongful convictions.
Over-Reliance On Forensic Evidence
You might well be thinking that you couldn’t possibly rely too much on any kind of evidence. However, there is an interesting contrast here which is worth looking into. As it happens, relying too much on forensic evidence is the single biggest cause of wrongful convictions, and it is best understood by means of something known as the CSI effect. This is known throughout the world of law, from the probation attorney to the barrister. Essentially, because of the prominence that forensic evidence plays in our culture, juries are not more likely than ever to put too much stock into the power of this kind of evidence – even though it is a form of evidence which is not as cut and dry as people tend to believe. This over-belief in DNA, fingerprints and so on leads to more wrongful convictions than anything else.
Improper Eyewitness Testimonies
It has long been known that eyewitnesses are not necessarily that reliable. Psychologists have carried out many studies over the years on this subject, and found that essentially people do not have as good a memory as they think they do. This is especially true when faced with a sudden quick or traumatic experience – you are less likely to accurately remember the face of someone, for example, even if you think you can. But eyewitnesses, similar to forensic evidence, tend to have a lot of hold in court, and for this reason often lead to wrongful convictions nearly as often.
Sometimes, a wrongful conviction occurs because someone confesses to a crime on behalf of someone else. This happens more often than you might care to think, and it happens to be one of the most common causes along with the preceding two above. People do this for many reasons. Sometimes it is out of love for a loved one whom they wish to protect. Sometimes it is just a matter of mental health issues, and they think they have committed a crime when in fact they are innocent. Either way, it is something that juries need to be careful in seeing the truth of if they want to convict the right person. A confession should never be taken at face value, but investigated as thoroughly as possible to obtain its true validity.