Wrongful Imprisonment: When the Criminal Justice System Fails

John L. Calcagni III
Wrongful Imprisonment

Our criminal justice system is not without flaws. Although there are safeguards in place to prevent wrongful imprisonment, there’s no way to guarantee that an innocent person doesn’t get put behind bars. In fact, it happens more often than it should. Learn all about wrongful imprisonment and the effects it can have on a person.

Why does it happen?

There are several ways that a wrongful conviction may occur. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to prevent any one of these ways from impacting your case:

1.Police torture

It’s up to the police to handle your case with professionalism. But there are times when law enforcement goes rogue. When they do, you may find yourself a victim of police torture. As a victim, you may confess to doing a crime that you never committed. The confession may seem like a better alternative than the torture.

Similarly, the police might coerce you into making a false statement. They could lead you into saying something that the police hold against you in court.

2. Improper forensics

Science isn’t always right. Sometimes, the lab makes mistakes. They might accidentally switch vials or make a simple measuring error. At other times, the lab technicians intentionally tamper with evidence. In any case, the evidence in your case could be compromised.

There’s no way to guarantee that the evidence sent to a lab is handled as it should be handled. As a result, the forensic evidence could lead to a wrongful imprisonment.

3. Phony experts

A judge and jury may base a conviction on the testimony of an expert. However, that expert isn’t always reliable. If the prosecution uses a phony expert, you might find yourself a victim of a wrongful conviction. The words of the expert could make the jury believe that you were guilty of a crime you didn’t commit. Had a real expert been on the stand, the jury might have questioned your guilt.

4. Wrong Identifications

Victims and witnesses don’t always get their identifications correct. Unfortunately, a jury doesn’t realize this fact. If someone mistakenly picked you out of a lineup, a jury could hold that against you. Mistaken identifications happen, and it can mean trouble for you.

How can you handle wrongful imprisonment?

If you find yourself in jail for a crime that you didn’t commit, you don’t have many options. The first thing that you need to do is to find a good lawyer. Without professional help, you don’t have a chance at fighting the charge.

There are several ways that a lawyer can fight your wrongful conviction. It all starts by them examining your case and determining what went wrong. Then, they can file a case for wrongful imprisonment. It’s not easy, but a good lawyer can prove your innocent and get a judge to exonerate you.

After Your Exoneration

If you fight your charges and a judge exonerates you, the work is not done. You deserve compensation for all the time that you spent behind bars. There’s a possibility that you can file a civil rights lawsuit. As a result, you may get compensation for your time and suffering. Although there’s no way to be sure how much money you can get, some lawsuits result in millions of dollars. It all depends on the specifics of your case and the experience of your lawyers.

Consider this example. Marty Tankleff spent 17 years in prison for the murder of his parents. However, he was innocent. Although the court exonerated Tankleff in 2007, he didn’t receive compensation for his time in jail until seven years later. He received almost $3.4 million in a case against the state of New York.

How Common is a Wrongful Conviction?

It’s impossible to say exactly how common wrongful conviction occurs. Many minor crimes result in plea bargains and deals. As a result, no one can say how many of those deals were wrongful imprisonment cases. People often serve a short time in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. No one knows about their wrongful conviction.

There are some statistics that shed light on the issue, however. Between 1989 and 2003, there were 340 exonerations. While this may not seem like a large number, it doesn’t include all the innocent people who are still behind bars. And it ignores all the people who did jail time for minor crimes that they never committed.

One study estimates that 4.1% of people sentenced to death were actually innocent. In addition to spending time in prison, these individuals would serve the ultimate penalty for a crime they didn’t commit. There are more recent statistics to show the trend of wrongful convictions. In 2015, there were 149 exonerations in the US. With so many exonerations, one has to wonder how many more guilty people remain in prison.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get the legal help that they need. Although there’s no way to guarantee against a wrongful imprisonment, you can improve your chances by hiring an experienced MA Criminal Defense Lawyers.