It is an unfortunate fact that, around the world, there are many false convictions every year. The US is one of the worst offenders for this, but it is a global problem. Neither is it a new problem. Some statistics show that this problem has been worsening over the past sixty or so years. But while this is a real problem (with real victims), there are people who are trying to reverse the flow. But how can it be that this sort of misunderstanding can occur so often? There must be some kind of reason behind it. In fact, there are three main reasons that false convictions occur at such an alarming rate. Let’s take a look at those now, so that we can better understand this problem.
Incorrect Eyewitness Information
Eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable. Looking at the evidence, it’s not hard to see why. The majority of prosecution cases rely on eyewitness reports. Yet many psychologists believe that they are all but completely false. When pushed, most people can remember the big events, but not the little details. And it is the little details which often win a case. But it is not just the details – eyewitness reports have lead to incorrect identification. This is bad news indeed for eyewitness reports being used as a staple of prosecution. In one study, eyewitness misidentification was the number one cause of wrongful convictions in 52.3% of cases. It’s clear, then, that this is not the most reliable method.
But it’s not all about the eyewitness. Many cases, some not even including eyewitness evidence, result in improper conviction. The second most common cause of wrongful convictions is improper forensic evidence. Forensics in themselves are not the problem. They are used by many professionals, from criminal attorney Brian Zeiger to the harshest prosecutors. It’s that most people have a view that forensics are infallible – but in fact, this is not the case. It has even been claimed by some experts that the public perception of forensics causes it to have more leverage in court cases than it should. At first, it might appear to be flawless. But it is anything but. Forensic evidence can be incorrect, like any other kind of evidence.
It might sound surprising, but confessions are false often enough to warrant a mention. The truth is, it is the third most common reason that a person is wrongly imprisoned. There are several reasons that an innocent person might want to confess to a crime. But the most common is to protect a loved one. However, such confessions are usually found out in the end. Often in these cases, the wrongful conviction does not last for long before the mistake is rectified. Nonetheless, it is still the cause of a huge number of false convictions. As such, it is something which should be looked into. Some have argued that it is a good argument against the idea that law enforcers can hold people indefinitely. Regardless, it is a real problem which needs to be looked into and rectified.