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WRONGFUL CONVICTION AND THE ROLE OF COUNSEL

Imagine being detained for doing absolutely nothing. That’s what wrongful conviction is all about – the brutalist thing to ever happen to a person.

The justice system of any country is made to make clear distinctions between the wrong and right, black and white, false and true, yet when you are still convicted of the crime you did not do, who is to blame?

WHAT IS WRONGFUL CONVICTION?

Wrongful conviction refers to the detention of an innocent person who has falsely been accused of the charges of transgressions. In the 2019 annual report published by the National Registry of Exonerations, investigators reveal nearly 2-10% of prisoners in U.S detention because of wrongful convictions.

WHY DO WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS HAPPEN?

They occur in two circumstances. Number one is when a person held accountable was factually innocent but still detained due to defenders’ prejudicial interests towards the defendant. And number two is when there are procedural mistakes that violate a convicted individual’s rights.

In either scenario, there is a massive role of the counsel and attorneys you have hired to fight your case in the judiciary. When you’re liberated of any charges and are on the verge of setting free, attorneys’ lack of experience, time, and professionalism can take you to unforeseen wrongful convictions.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THE INNOCENT BEHIND BARS?

When wrongful convictions transpire, the ineffective counsel becomes responsible, leading to a violation of the sixth constitutional amendment. This carelessness happens when the representative body fails to investigate the case properly, has insufficient evidence for the defendant’s defense, is unable to interrogate prosecution witnesses, and cannot challenge the prosecution’s physical evidence or stand for hearings.

Frequently, attorneys accept cases despite being unqualified to fight the case and represent the defendant improperly. Such bad lawyering leads to the defendant’s unequal opportunity for the play, ending with wrongful convictions at last.

THE ROLE OF COUNSEL IN THE WRONGFUL CONVICTION

While the fundamental role of the counsel and chief attorney is to ensure truth prevails, sometimes they sell the pledge they made upon taking charge of this responsibility. For instance, wrongful convictions often occur because the defender has a prejudicial bias toward the defendant, causing them to serve in prison more than their legal obligation.

Likewise, inadequate professionalism, experience, and ability to tackle difficult situations such as the inability of the defendant to investigate alibis and eyewitnesses cause these defendants to fall below their objective standards of rationality. This allows the defendant to howl for their ineffectiveness.

Below are a few other reasons that make the defender exhibit lack of effectiveness.

  1. DRUNK, ASLEEP & INCOMPETENT

Lawyers who demonstrate incompetence are likely to put innocent people behind bars due to their negligence. For example, lawyers who show up drunk and asleep on a day of trial, as revealed by their DNA samples, are less likely to defend their defendants.

  1. FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE ALIBIS

The attorney of the innocent defendant, when unable to interrogate alibis, an actual perpetrator of the crime, leaves him in a vulnerable position of being detained.

  1. INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

Often, innocent suspects are pleaded guilty with inadequate defense; credit goes to their attorneys who fail to show up on trial days or have insufficient evidence in the defendant’s favor. Additionally, their failure to consult with experts on case-related forensic issues further instigates the chances of the innocent being imprisoned with lesser pieces of evidence.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

For a decision to be held solemnly based on integrity, the crown attorneys must show professionalism and work honestly with their defendants to prevent unnecessary conviction. Showing responsibility towards a cause, strong commitment to their job, and faith in their client is the only way to save those wrongfully convicted or on the verge of being convicted in the case.

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FACTORS ADDING TO WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES

Wrongful convictions in the United States are increasing drastically. Some majorly common contributors to accumulating this sum include eyewitness testimony, fabricated confessions, fabricated forensic evidence, and scarce legal defense.

With an increasing number of wrongful conviction cases across the U.S, people still believe they will be held free innocent with rightful criminal judicial proceedings. Unluckily, the stats reveal a complete contrary report in this regard. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, approximately only 1,793 people have been freed till now, demonstrating the lack of promptness in our justice system.

People that deem wrongful conviction as no big deal need to understand how complex things may get if got out of hand. There are many underlying factors leading to this unforeseen wrongful conviction, of which the most common ones are as follows.

  1. EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY

The eyewitness’s errors in identification are far from one of the most common causes of putting the innocent behind bars. These errors often occur due to a human’s limited memory and inability to recall information after significant time has passed. Secondly, the method that the defenders use to identify perpetrators also adds to the poor memory recall.

Research further demonstrates that authorities can choose a witness to pick the perpetrator of their choice or expand a witness’s confidence for an incorrect identification in the absence of adequate defenses.

  1. FABRICATED CONFESSIONS

A significant chunk of wrongful convictions is a consequence of fabricated confessions. Guiltless people may articulate false confessions due to following reasons:

  • Misinterpretation of the condition or their lawful rights
  • Fear of being physically harmed or having harsh sentencing in case a confession is not given
  • Exhaustion, alcoholism, or other aspects that may lead to mental impairment
  • Duress or coercion

Unfortunately, confessions are typically seen as the most persuasive type of evidence in a criminal case. Thus, once a defendant has made a fabricated confession, the chances of a wrongful conviction may upsurge substantially.

  1. ERRONEOUS FORENSIC EVIDENCE

Despite the factors mentioned above, many wrongful convictions are the byproduct of false forensic evidence. According to research, many extensively used techniques, for instance, hair microscopy and firearm tool mark analysis, are scientifically inaccurate and ineffective. Astonishingly, 47% of individuals who have been acquitted grounded on DNA evidence were initially being imprisoned due to faulty forensic evidence.

Out of many, some wrongful convictions widely occur because of the exaggerated reliability of forensic procedures in trials. The Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that in 2015, flawed testimony was found for approximately two decades in trials with federal or state criminal charges. In 95% of the reviewed hearings, they further concluded that its forecasters overstated the matching strength made with hair microscopy analysis in a way that favored prosecuting attorneys.

  1. SCARCE LEGAL DEFENSE

There are chances that an innocent might end up behind bars, especially when the person does not have sufficient legal defense. There is no doubt that insufficient legal representation is one of the crucial factors in wrongful convictions to this day.

The accused of criminal transgressions should prefer consulting with a private lawyer despite their designated public escort to combat these factors. A personal lawyer can build a systematic defense and help an individual by making sure that the possible inadequacies of forensic evidence, eyewitness testimony, and self-convicting statements are prudently weighed.