Beginning in the 1990s, the use of DNA evidence and forensic science became an extremely helpful tool for exonerating those wrongly accused and convicted people that were suffering in prison. Gould and Leo add, “Given the rise and wide acceptance of DNA testing, it is possible to forget that, for decades, law enforcement had to rely on much less accurate forensic methods” (Gould and Leo 852). The use of fingerprint analysis, serology analysis, and hair comparison analysis are all methods that can be crucial in convicting the right suspect for a crime. Isn’t it the responsibility of the police and criminal justice system to follow specific procedures to avoid these mistakes in the first place?
As stated in Smith and Hattery’s work, race plays a huge role in wrongful convictions. To give some background, they examine the statistics behind wrongful convictions: “As of January 1, 2010, there have been approximately 250 exonerations in the United States. Most, or over 90%, of these post-conviction exonerates are men. Approximately 75% are members of minority groups and on average have spent 13 years” (75-76). Because these cases can differ tremendously, it is hard to nail down the right percentage of innocent inmates. Exoneration is most common in murder or assault cases, where the DNA evidence can be analyzed and a conclusion can be made. In addition, “African American men are disproportionately represented among the population of exonerees, in fact of the 150 cases in which we have reliable race data for the offender, 105 or 70%, are African American” (79). The stigma of African American men being more dangerous heavily comes into play here, as well. Because they already are disadvantaged and disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, it makes it “easier” to attach a crime to them, when the likelihood is that they did not commit the crime. Smith and Hattery conclude “there have to be changes made to state laws that should reduce the number of wrongful convictions that are based on systematic errors such as faulty eyewitness testimony” (89).
Finally, Acker et al. refer to wrongful convictions as “elephants in the courtroom”. I couldn’t have described them with a better phrase myself. Wrongful convictions are awful occurrences that are present, yet people will do anything to not have to address them. Is this what we want our criminal justice system to look like forever? Problems need to be addressed and immediately fixed so that these miscarriages of justices never happen again. Acker et al. provide three seemingly simple solutions that could stop wrongful convictions. They state, “pre-trial diversion of cases, post-conviction consideration of recanted testimony, and the need to carefully attend to lessons learned from known cases of wrongful conviction to avert their repetition in the future” are all viable options for ending the happenings of wrongful convictions (Acker et al. 715).
What do you think are possible solutions for ending the wrongful conviction problem that encompasses our criminal justice system?