Wrongful Convictions

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“UNDUE PROCESS”
WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS AND VIOLATIONS OF CIVIL LIBERTIES

Latrina Dickerson

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
Clayton State University, Morrow, Georgia

February, 2013

“UNDUE PROCESS”
Wrongful Convictions and Violations of Civil Liberties

Abstract: Over the past twenty years, advancement in DNA technology has directly led to the exoneration of nearly 300 people in the United States. In addition to these scientific advancements, a growing body of literature has focused on the significant roles eyewitness misidentification, so-called “jailhouse snitches,” and false confessions have played in contributing to wrongful convictions in U.S. courts. The aim of this paper is to examine the occurrence of wrongful conviction in criminal trials and the effect of DNA testing on bringing attention to the alarming frequency of these unjust judicial outcomes. Through an examination of previous wrongful conviction research and appellate court rulings, this paper will also explore the extent to which permitting wrongful convictions to be upheld constitutes a violation of civil liberties. Finally, this paper will discuss an important contradiction that advancements in science have exposed within our criminal justice system; while DNA technology and other advanced forensic techniques are increasingly being relied upon to secure criminal convictions, the justice system seems to be correspondingly reluctant to consider these forms of evidence for the purposes of overturning the convictions of the factually innocent. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate a need for reform in the criminal justice system.

Introduction

A lot of research has been carried out in the area of wrongful convictions in the past few years, reflecting the increasing concern for authentic justice in the criminal justice system. Criminal procedure experts do not seem to have been involved in actual dialogue with criminologists in addressing this issue. The history of wrongful convictions is a long one, although not much seems to have been achieved in the effort to address it. This does not mean that there has been no development in this area. In providing convincing evidence, it is through the development of technology that the problem of wrongful convictions can be effectively addressed. One development towards this end is the development of DNA testing (Smith, Zalman and Kiger, 2011). The technology of DNA testing is the concrete element that breaks other false evidence. Over the past years, advancement in DNA technology has directly led to the exoneration of nearly 300 people in the United States. Unfortunately, proof of actual innocence offers no guarantee that affected individuals will be released from prison. Upholding wrongful convictions constitutes a violation of civil liberties and indicates reform is needed in the criminal justice system.

The aim of this research is to examine the occurrence of wrongful convictions in criminal trials and the effect of DNA testing. The history and the various causes of wrongful convictions will be examined. Moreover, this research paper will provide the percentage on exonerated cases as well as research and analysis on wrongful convictions. By learning about the unjust convictions and DNA testing, one can gain a greater picture of an underground systemic problem. The importance of this paper is to show that an unjust conviction, in the criminal justice system, is a crime.

In this research paper I will examine the work of authors Leo and Gould. Dr. Leo has intensive history in wrongful conviction research. Being a law faculty member at the University of San Francisco, a professor of psychology and criminology at the University of California, and a professor of sociology and law at the University of Colorado gives Dr. Leo a unique perspective on the subject of police interrogation practices, false confessions, and...
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