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Wrongful Convictions: Causes, Prevention, Impact and Outlook for Corrections

NCJ Number
Date Published
Doris Wells
This report discusses the results of a study that examined the effects that wrongful convictions have on the criminal justice system.
This report presents the results of a study that examined the factors leading to wrongful convictions and the impact that these convictions have on the criminal justice system. The study found that the following factors were significant to whether or not an innocent defendant was wrongfully convicted: whether the case was tried in a punitive State or one with a death penalty culture; the age and criminal history of the defendant; whether the prosecution withheld evidence or presented a weak case; the strength of the defense and use of the defendant’s family member as a witness; misidentification of the defendant; errors in the presentation of forensic evidence; and lying by non-eyewitnesses. A set of recommendations are presented in the article that address ways to prevent wrongful convictions of innocent defendants. These recommendations include the use of checklists for investigations, performing DNA tests early in the investigation, having prosecutors establishing open-file discoveries, and providing a threshold of evidence to support why a defendant is in a lineup. The report also discusses the financial impact that wrongful convictions have on the criminal justice system due to the extra expenses incurred in housing, treating, and training these individuals. 3 endnotes
Date Created: February 9, 2014