Written by: Lance Kriete
Every year in the United States of America, millions of crimes are committed that violate and harm the individual rights, properties, and freedoms that are not only guaranteed to American citizens of this country, but also naturally inherent to mankind as whole. Based on the founding principles of our country, which are derived from the Constitution of these United States, justice is dealt accordingly to the perpetrators of these crimes. While this justice is usually fair, due to certain rights given to those who may be charged with crimes, sometimes an error is made. A simple mistake, a missing or broken link in the chain that represents the investigation and trial processes, causes an innocent bystander to become caught up in an investigation, and in many cases, can result in a wrongful conviction. This mistake can come in many forms: a mistaken eyewitness identification, a false confession, misconduct of the governing authorities, improper forensic investigation, or even lazy or unskilled litigation by the defense attorneys. Legal miscarriage like this is not something that should be taken lightly, especially since those affected must not only endure the years spent in prison, but also deal with lost wages, isolation from friends and family, scrutiny from potential employers, and ostracization from their community. According to C. Ronald Huff, director of the Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State University, roughly 10,000 United States residents who are not guilty of a crime are convicted every year, a "conservative" estimate of 0.5% of the 1,993,880 index crimes used for his research that was completed in 1990 . Even more alarming are the 138 Death Row inmates who have been exonerated sine 1973 as a result of further DNA testing; while anywhere between a concrete group of 8 and another 31 "possible innocents" have been executed in the United States despite evidence that could have left reasonable doubt. The thought that a wrongful conviction could lead to the death of an innocent person is enough to raise alarms and should call for closer attention to detail in criminal investigations and trials. While many choose to overlook these things and ignore wrongful convictions, adapting a mentality that anybody who is locked up obviously did something to deserve it; it is clear and easy to see that the justice system here in the United States has been, currently is, and can be full of flaws. As of 2005, over 150 people since 1991 have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated by DNA, throughout 31 states, and combined, served over 1800 years of time incarcerated. (American Bar Association, 2005). Luckily, as forensic investigative technology and techniques improve, and the usage of deoxyribonucleic acid in forensic investigation rises, there have been 268 exonerations of wrongfully convicted defendants who have been exonerated by reopening cases and utilizing DNA testing (Innocence Project). This is where the Innocence Project organization comes in; they make it their responsibility to help those who are wrongfully convicted gain exoneration.
One case that is worth noting in particular is that of State of Texas v Cornelius Dupree Jr. On November 23, 1979, in Dallas, Texas, a 26 year-old woman and her male partner were carjacked by two African American males, who ordered the man to leave and then abducted the woman and subsequently raped her. After the two men finished, they elected not to kill the woman, but rather to steal her rabbit fur coat, and drive off, followed by an attempt to sell the coat a few days later across town. About a month later, in the beginning of December, Cornelius Dupree Jr. and his friend Anthony Massingil were arrested for a separate and unrelated sexual assault and robbery charge, as they had resembled the descriptions of the perpetrators of said case. It was noted that they did not...