When the innocent are convicted…
“Rule 3.8 (a) The prosecutor in a criminal case shall: not institute or continue to prosecute a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause…”
When innocent persons are convicted, victims are denied justice and we are all left less safe.
For every wrongful conviction there exists a serious public safety issue. Not only are victims of crime denied real justice, but actual criminals remain free to harm again. The public is also lulled into a false sense of security. There is the chance we will be less diligent in protecting ourselves, because we are convinced that the danger is contained-when it is not. We are never made safer if the wrong person is locked up. It is in the interest of justice and safety that we make absolutely certain that we only convict those responsible for crime, especially when that crime is one of murder.
In the wrongful convictions of Jeffrey Deskovic (16 years),Michael Morton (24 years); Kevin Green (16 years) and the Exonerated Five, the actual perpetrators remained free and did rape and kill again, as innocent men languished behind bars.
Some argue that there is no way to guarantee that only guilty persons will be convicted, but even if true, should this be an excuse for pursuing a conviction where there exists a serious doubt of guilt? And at what cost do we subscribe to this type of reasoning? The estimate is that 2%-10% of those currently incarcerated in the US are innocent. With 2.3 million in prisons, this means that there are anywhere between 43K to 230k innocent lives devastated, behind bars-keeping parents from their children and wasting millions of taxpayer’s dollars.
It might also be argued that comparatively few innocent lives are ruined, in contrast with the number of criminals put away. But these are never small numbers if you know one of the innocent. Or are one of them.
And the fallacy that wrongful convictions are inevitable, is brought to light in how we deal with every other safety issue in our society: If just two people get sick from romaine lettuce, millions of dollars get spent on a recall. Imagine if even just 4% of all those who ingested a product were to become ill, what would occur. It’s simple, that product would be removed from the shelves! Immediately. Yet it has somehow become acceptable norm that there will be inevitable harm done to a percentage of the innocent among us. This by way of a system that was put into place to protect us when we are innocent. How did it become acceptable that our criminal justice system can so easily commit the very harm it was entrusted to prevent?
Could it be as simple as that there is an incentive for this? Are we encouraging law enforcement to close cases by any means necessary, so that we can imagine ourselves safer, even if this involves prosecuting and convicting the wrong people?
Regardless of cause, it is imperative that investigators and prosecutors focus less on “winning” and more on making absolutely certain they have it right. No law enforcement career should advance on the devastation and ruin of innocent lives. Especially when incarcerating the innocent has proven not to make any of us safer. In fact, there is evidence these methods endanger us.
And the victims of violent crime certainly deserve something better than a faux-justice that might make people feel better in the moment, but one that in reality only creates additional victims.
We are better than this. So why aren’t we doing better than this?
CURRENTLY 2,450 EXONERATIONS
MORE THAN 21,550 YEARS LOST
The full damage of a wrongful conviction is incalculable.