Crime and justice is the standard that establishes our civilized society. Justice should be swift and efficient. In other words, the punishment should fit the crime. There are so many heated discussions about crime, punishment, and the death penalty. It’s an area that should be discussed and given solid theories, facts, and working examples.
But what happens when someone gets wrongfully convicted? How can we learn from this process? And, keep it from happening again?
There are a variety of reasons that can cause wrongful convictions:
- Eyewitness Identification
This is the most consistent factor in wrongful conviction cases. Eyewitness misidentification is common and should be taken as one of the pieces of evidence in a case, instead of “the only” piece of evidence in a case. Juries are usually receptive to eyewitness testimony of someone who saw the defendant commit the crime. There are many contributing factors than can effect the positive identification of a defendant, such as stress effect, weapons effect, manner in which the lineup was conducted, and procedural problems.
- Errors in Forensic Science & Fabricated Evidence
Forensic science has amazing and very credible evidence to offer any case. As with anything, there can be “human errors” and purposeful errors and fabrications. To add to the problems, there is usually a large backlog, poor standards, of evidence that needs to be examined.
- False Confessions and Guilty Pleas
Confessions and guilty pleas are the damaging evidence that can be presented in court. It makes the juries believe that it’s an open and shut case. It’s imperative that confessions and guilty pleas are backed up by facts and evidence.
- Government Misconduct
- Inexperienced Lawyers
The criminal justice system carries a heavy burden to convict the guilty, seek justice for the innocent, and to protect the innocent from wrongful imprisonment. That’s why it’s so important to identify, study, and learn from wrongful convictions. Checks and balances, along with Innocence Projects will help to begin to eliminate these potential problems.
What does this mean for criminologists?
Criminologists are both behavioral and social scientists. They serve as a valuable asset in case examination and research into wrongful convictions. Aside from studying the social, psychological, economic, and biological aspects that produce crime, criminologists can study with great success and research how wrongful convictions occur and what polices or laws can help to minimize the problem.