Causes of wrongful convictions

When studying wrongful convictions, there are many causes. The most routine causes are witnesses who are either mistaken or who have a motive to lie. For example:

  • Faulty eyewitness identification
  • Guilty parties putting the blame on others
  • Incompetent expert witnesses ( liars-for-hire )

Then we have coerced false confessions ( or even confessions that never happened ). I suspect that with recording of suspect interviews, such confessions are now relatively rare.

Next, we have innocent people who lie, which is not exactly a false confession, but can easily cause a wrongful conviction. Examples are self-defense cases where the killing is not immediately reported, lying about being at the scene of a crime.

Then we have cases where there are ambiguous suspicious circumstances. For example a gun being stolen, which might be the murder weapon. A person being a prime suspect ( perhaps simply by being at the scene ). It can be a strange occurrence that has no obvious innocent explanation ( perhaps the Owl attack in the Michael Peterson case ). Or an event that might or might not be an accident (often the death of a child).

Then there is police manipulating evidence, coercing witnesses, suppressing evidence favorable to the accused, or not investigating alternative theories, to get a conviction.

Finally, we have cases where there is some combination of the above causes.

When investigating an alleged wrongful conviction, after establishing the facts, the key is to identify the causes.

… To Be Completed …

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