Falsely Accused: How Innocent People End Up in Prison

by AndrewDeen on January 28, 2013

(General thoughts on the subject) One fundamental principle of law is that every accused person is presumed innocent until he or she is proven guilty by a competent court. Another principle states that it is better for guilty people to get off scot free than for one innocent person to get convicted for a crime he or she did not commit. It is also true that in all legal matters, every element of doubt is resolved in favor of the accused person. This is why the prosecution team in every trial is required to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

These, measures are put in place to protect the accused person. They are also meant to ensure that people who are standing trial do not get convicted wrongfully by the trial judge. Unfortunately, there are times people can be found guilty for crimes they do not commit. This is a serious miscarriage of justice because it may lead to incarceration or even the execution of the person who has been wrongfully convicted.

Some of the causes of wrongful conviction are false identification, circumstantial evidence, a weak defense, shoddy prosecution, and deliberate misconduct by justice officials. Other causes of wrongful conviction are false confessions, eyewitness misidentification, false science, and the role of snitches.

Of the most common causes of wrongful conviction is false identification. Prosecutors usually rely on eyewitness accounts and the testimony of witnesses to prosecute accused people. In cases where the witness has pointed out the wrong person, this can lead to wrongful conviction. False identification is usually compounded by the role of snitches in a trial. This is a situation in which people are paid to testify against an accused person. There are also instances where witnesses give false testimony in return for favor from the government. Now, the trial judge and the jury have no way of knowing whether what has happened behind the scenes. They just take the testimony of witnesses at face value and use this evidence to arrive at a verdict.

Wrongful Conviction Cases

One popular case of wrongful conviction is the case of Carlos DeLuna who was executed in 1989 for the stabbing of a store clerk named Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi. This crime was committed on February 4, 1983. For the hapless DeLuna, the whole thing was one huge misfortune. There were many factors responsible for DeLuna’s sad end. There was very shabby police work in the sense that the police investigators did not really try to look beyond DeLuna. The prosecution was devious and wanted DeLuna to take the rap for this particular crime. To make matters worse, DeLuna had an incompetent defense lawyer. The fate of Carlos DeLuna was probably decided by his reluctance to name Carlos Hernandez immediately because this man turned out to be the real culprit.

In 2003, Professor James Liebman got involved in the Carlos DeLuna case and his revelation was startling. The crime was actually committed by Carlos Hernandez and this man had bragged about this fact repeatedly. The only reason the police had for arraigning Deluna was that he was found hiding near the murder scene and he looked like Hernandez.

Another very sad case is that of Roger Beardmore from Stoke-on-Trent in the UK. This man was convicted in March 1998 by the Stafford Crown Court. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for rape and attempted rape. As it turned out, Roger Beardmore was completely innocent. The young girl who accused him of rape later confessed that she had lied to get her mother’s attention. Beardmore was released after serving three years of the nine year sentence but the trauma he went through cannot be erased by the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

The law is not perfect and prosecution is not an exact science. For all that, legal officers carry a heavy burden. The wrong judgment can destroy the life of the accused person and that of his close relations. This is the reason police officers and prosecutors need to follow the law exclusively and be very careful in their investigations. This will minimize cases of wrongful conviction and the trauma that comes with it.

Author Bio

Andy Wright produces informative articles related to law. This article was written on behalf of the California Innocence Project where you can find the Innocence Project Statistics.




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