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The Innocence Commission and Wrongful Convictions

a. Identify at least three causes of wrongful conviction.
b. Suggest ways in which the court system can help to reduce or eliminate these causes.
c. Include reference to at least three examples of individuals who were wrongfully convicted and whose convictions might have been averted of your recommendations had been followed.

Please list and cite references.

Solution Preview

1. Identify at least three causes of wrongful conviction.

The three primary causes of wrongful conviction (referred to as 'justice gone wrong') are:
- False and unreliable evidence
- Illegal conduct and serious errors by police and prosecutors
- Lack of adequate defense (1)

Furthermore, these factors rarely operate in isolation. (1)

2. Suggest ways in which the court system can help to reduce or eliminate these causes.

One way to determine how to eliminate these causes is to look at what causes the problems (which then become part of the solution). For example, the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Northwestern University School of Law identifies four types of false or unreliable evidence, which need to be addressed and alleviated:

- False testimony by informant or "snitch" witnesses
- Incorrect eyewitness identification
- False confessions
- False or unreliable forensic evidence or "junk science." (1)

What could the court do to reduce of eliminate these causes?

For example, one recommendation to reduce of eliminate, for instance, false and unreliable evidence would be to have stringent checks and balances during the information gathering stage of the investigation. Informants need to be thoroughly investigated for credibility and perhaps should be combined with other evidence before it is believed to be true. Likewise, a comprehensive list of supporting evidence that collaborates each other; mainly that separately the evidence holds less water than when three or four sources collaborate the story.

We need to ask: what can the court do to prevent illegal conduct and serious errors by police and prosecutors? Perhaps, have a better screening for those entering the profession. Promote ethical behavior through training, and pick up on attitudes early in the career of the person. However, every profession has some deviants; therefore, the court must be willing to confront and have harsh penalties for illegal conduct by police and prosecutors. It must be willing to act against their own, if/when the law has been broken, acting as a good role model for justice through integrity and ethical behavior. However, other checks and balances can also help to prevent wrongful conviction.

For example, the newly formed California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice was created in 2004 by the California State Senate to investigate the problems inherent in the criminal justice system and make recommendations for change by December 31, 2007. "The Faces of Wrongful Conviction" Conference (April 7-9, 2006) has been organized to investigate issues surrounding and leading to wrongful conviction, raise awareness of its seriousness and advocate for ...

Solution Summary

This solution identifies at least three causes of wrongful conviction and potential court remedies to reduce or eliminate these causes. These recommendations are then applied to three cases. Supplemented with other case examples. This is all completed in 1664 words.

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