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Wrongful Convictions Essay

Courts often prove to be corrupt through the abundance of wrongful or unfair convictions found within them. Many people around the world have been wrongfully convicted, and sentenced to death despite their innocence because of issues like “eyewitness misidentification,” “junk science,” “false confessions,” “government misconduct,” “snitches,” and “bad lawyering” (Causes of Wrongful Convictions). As an attempt to assuage this unleveled playing field, several corporations have been established with the intent to exonerate those who are wrongfully convicted.

Corporations, like the Innocence Project, which is a corporation in the United States, take on cases of those who seem to be wrongfully convicted, and appeal them to the court in hopes of getting another trial to give the wrongfully convicted a fair opportunity to prove their innocence through DNA evidence. These wrongful convictions prove to have lasting effects on not only those acquitted, but also those who fell victim to the original crime. Devastating psychological impairments are inflicted upon those who are falsely acquitted, along with familial and social issues upon release; it seemingly takes away their humanity.

Victims of the original crime are also affected with negative impacts because they often feel responsible for the turmoil of an innocent person, and are shaken with the realization that the real perpetrator is still freely amongst them. Wrongful convictions are a serious problem within the courts, and this can be shown through the abundance of their occurrences, the issues that lead to them and the strong attempts exonerate those afflicted, and the effects they have on the victim of wrongful imprisonment and the original crime.

Found in wide numbers, wrongful convictions are the epitome of corruption and the downfall of the legal justice system. With an estimation of over ten thousand “innocent people convicted each year” in the United States, wrongful convictions and their causes are proving to be detrimental to the country, its people, and their trust in it as a country based on democratic values (Spring). As an attempt to assuage the pain and injustice these wrongful convictions cause, organizations are being developed to help fix their lives.

The Innocence Project is the most common and most known, within the United States of America, of these corporations that help bring truth to the lies and injustices that incarcerate so many on false pretenses. This corporation searches through files of submitted cases in which the person charged as guilty is believed to be innocent. For those chosen by the corporation, lawyers and investigators from around the country work together on cases with the intended outcome being to exonerate “the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing” (Innocence Project).

This corporation also works to reform “the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice” by bringing attention to the reality of wrongful convictions and the things that cause such a catastrophic thing through their publication of cases they pick up on their website. The Innocence Project and its search for fair judgment and representation is a reaction to these wrongful convictions, and as it succeeds, it is building on the democratic system of equality. Accordingly, many have been freed due to the hard work of the Innocence Project and the hope it finds within the United States democratic legal justice system.

A man by the name of Joseph Fears Jr. was said to have committed a crime because of eyewitness misidentification, despite the fact that he plead not guilty, and served twenty-five years in prison before being exonerated due to DNA evidence that “excluded Fears as a possible perpetrator” (Innocence Project). This case alone shows how the top “factor leading to wrongful conviction[] … eyewitness misidentification,” can incarcerate someone despite other aspects, like a solid alibi and a plea not gulty, and essentially ruin a life (Spring).

Eyewitness misidentification occurs when a witness identifies the accused, and that witness’ identification is incorrect. In this case the witness was on the phone with the victim when the crime occurred and identified the accused by voice, despite being uncertain of whether she actually heard a voice other than the victim’s (Innocence Project). Another case the Innocence Project has taken on and won is that of Nicholas Yarris, a man sentenced to death because of eyewitness misidentification, false confession, and snitching. ho served twenty-one years before being exonerated due to hard evidence (Innocence Project). This case again shows the abundance of eyewitness misidentification in regards to false convictions, and introduces two more common attributes to wrongful convictions, false confession and informants. In this case, the eyewitness misidentification is consistent with viewing, as the witness’ claims to have seen the accused harassing the victim prior to the crime.

Another attribute to the first result of this case is the contribution of a snitch, or “jailhouse informant,” who would be another inmate that claims to have heard Yarris admit to committing the crime (American Bar). The final common attribute to this case is false confession, in which Yarris was supposed to have admitted to the crime by stating he “never meant to kill anyone,” which is not a definite confession because it is supplied word of mouth by a detective and the implications of occurrences before and after are not exemplified.

These three attributes to his wrongful conviction would be proven insignificant as “Yarris was excluded from all biological material connected with the crime” (Innocence Project). Marvin Anderson and his wrongful conviction brings about two more attributes to such error, government misconducts and “bad lawyering,” along with again re-affirming the statement that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause(Causes of Wrongful Convictions, Innocence Project). Anderson was convicted and served twenty years due to government isconduct, inadequate defense, and eyewitness misidentification. The officer leading this Anderson’s arrest and conviction is the culprit of the government misconduct, which is when government officials “lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions,” that landed the innocent man lacking a criminal record with a two-hundred and ten year sentence (Innocence Project).

The officer in this case took broad information from the victim and pinpointed it to fit that of Anderson because he was “only… an” the officer personally knew of that vaguely fit this criteria despite his lack of a criminal record. Because there were no governmentally filed photographs of Anderson, the officer went directly to his employer and obtained photos, which he showed to the victim making her believe he was the culprit. Because of this misconduct, the victim falsely identified Anderson as the assailant, and this brought eyewitness misidentification into the realm of attributing factors of Anderson’s false conviction.

Finally, the case against William O’Dell Harris, in which he was convicted and sentenced to serve ten to twenty years, displays the last leading aspect of issues that lead to wrongful conviction, “junk science” (Innocence Project, Causes of Wrongful Convictions). The legal justice system of the United States of America has proven to be unbalanced and corrupt through the abundance of wrongful convictions, their causes, and their affects throughout the entire United States as not only a country, but as a people.

The cases of wrongful conviction are becoming nothing out of the ordinary, and are often undetected as being false convictions. Many things attribute to these detrimental and deceptive decisions like, “eyewitness misidentification,” “junk science,” “false confessions,” “government misconduct,” “Snitches,” and “bad lawyering” (Causes of Wrongful Convictions). Corporations like the Innocence Project have been established within the United States of America with the complete intent to exonerate those who are wrongfully convicted, and prevent or minimize future wrongful convictions.

These efforts to create a level legal justice system are done by lawyers working with corporations like the Innocence Project to take on cases of those who seem to be innocent, and appealing them to the court with the intent of the person receiving another chance to prove their innocence by getting a new trial. If things go as planned and those wrongfully convicted get exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project, their journey of being mistreated by their own country is not over, only the mistreatment by the attempt at freedom and justice is over.

Those acquitted continue to suffer in personal ways through the effects of a lack of relationship with society and family, an increase in mental instability for the individual, and often a lack of ability to serve as a capable and functioning citizen of the country that is based on democracy, the United States of America. Another thing caused by wrongful convictions that cannot be alleviated are the effects of grief and vulnerability that are inflicted on the victim of the original crime when they realize they attributed to the cause of unfair suffering and that the original perpetrator is free.

The United States of America has some serious flaws in its legal justice system, that of which wrongful convictions can be included. They have become a monstrosity as a common occurrence, generalizations have been made about the certain issues that lead to this flaw, corporations have been established to help deplete the amount of wrongful convicts serving sentences despite their lack of guilt, and proof of the effects these unfair sentences have on both the original crime victim and the victim of the wrongful conviction.

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