Provide one example of each of the reasons why innocent individuals are wrongly convicted.

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume that this is a follow-up to your previous question, in which you asked for eight reasons why people are wrongfully convicted of crimes.  Therefore, I will use the eight reasons given in that answer, giving real-life examples for the first six.  The eight reasons were:

  1.       Mistaken eyewitness testimony.
  2.       False confessions. 
  3.       Government misconduct. 
  4.       Bad science.
  5.       Use of informants. 
  6.       Inadequate defense. 
  7.       Pro-police bias. 
  8.       Racism or other bias against defendants.

Perhaps the most famous example of a person wrongly convicted on mistaken eyewitness testimony is Ronald Cotton.  He was convicted of rape, with the strongest testimony being the testimony of one of the victims.  She carefully looked at the attacker as she was being attacked and later identified Cotton.  As it turns out, her identification was wrong and the actual rapist was a man who looked somewhat like Cotton.  The victim and Cotton have written a book together and now work together to try to prevent further miscarriages of justice like the one that happened to them.

An example of a false confession is that of Damon Thibodeaux.  In 1996, when Thibodeaux was 22, he confessed to raping and killing his 14-year-old cousin.  After he had been in prison 16 years, DNA evidence proved his innocence.  Experts believe that fatigue, psychological stress and fear of getting the death penalty led him to confess even though he had not killed his cousin.

An example of government misconduct is Michael Morton, who was convicted in 1986 of having killed his wife.  25 years later, Morton was cleared by DNA evidence.  At that time, it was found that prosecutors had concealed evidence that might have caused a jury to acquit Morton.

An example of bad science is the case of Paul House, who was convicted of rape and murder in 1986.  He was convicted largely on the basis of a supposed match between the victim’s blood type and blood found on House’s jeans.  It was later found that the blood had probably not gotten on the jeans during the crime but instead had spilled on the jeans either accidentally or deliberately after the evidence had been collected.  It was also found that the state’s DNA expert had mistakenly testified that the semen on the victim’s clothing could not have come from her husband.  Later DNA testing showed that it had, in fact, come from him.

An example of use of informants is Larry Peterson, who was convicted of sexual assault and murder in 1989.  Peterson was cleared by DNA evidence in 2005.  He had been convicted largely on the evidence of three coworkers who said Peterson had confessed to them and one jail inmate, who said Peterson had confessed to him while in jail.

An example of inadequate defense is Eddie Joe Lloyd, convicted of a murder that was committed in 1984.  His court-appointed attorney (who was paid all of $150 for representing him) conducted no investigation into his confession or whether he was mentally ill.  The attorney quit eight days before the trial, which was not postponed.  The new attorney never met with the old attorney, conducted no investigation, and did not cross-examine important witnesses, and called no witnesses of his own.  Lloyd was later exonerated by DNA evidence.

For the last two causes, it is impossible to give examples.  This is because there is no way to prove that these factors cause people to be wrongly convicted.  You do not see juries admitting “we convicted him because he was black.”  These are things that jurors would not admit to, and which they might not even be conscious of.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question