In general, we all like to think that the criminal justice system works. But the system is not perfect. It's run by people and people make mistakes. Of course, it must be a constant goal to improve the system and reduce the likelihood that an innocent person is convicted of a crime in Colorado and the rest of the country.
Researchers have looked at wrongful convictions in the country and come up with reasons why cases turned out in the wrong way. The following are some of the trends found regarding the reality that sometimes innocent people are found guilty of crimes that they did not commit. Researchers looked at faulty convictions from within the past 23 years:
- There have been 416 documented homicide exonerations. The majority of wrongful convictions in those cases were the result of perjury and false accusations.
- There have been 203 wrongful sexual assault convictions. The majority of those wrongful convictions were the result of faulty eyewitness testimony.
- There have been 47 wrongful robbery convictions. The majority of those wrongful convictions were the result of faulty eyewitness testimony.
- DNA tests worked to exonerate 289 people, some of whom were on death row for severe crimes that they didn't commit.
As you can see, the system isn't perfect. Courts and juries are swayed in their decisions based on the evidence presented to them. Sometimes that evidence isn't so dependable. It's also important to understand that the numbers above are likely lower than the actual number of people who pleaded guilty and served time for offenses they didn't commit.
Our system isn't meant to just identify and punish people who have broken the law. It is also crucial that it protects innocent people from landing behind bars and with criminal convictions on their records. This study, the researchers hope, will provide a point of reference to help improve the system and the mistakes that taint it.
Source: USA Today, "Wrongful convictions shine spotlight on judicial system," Kevin Johnson, May 20, 2012