It is better to let a thousand guilty individuals go free than to let one innocent person suffer (Volokh, 1997). The rationale behind this statement is that nobody can put a price in the life and liberty of a person. Wrongful conviction of an innocent man destroys his whole life and family. While the innocent is suffering the punishment for something that he did not do, the guilty is enjoying the freedom that the innocent man deserved but has been deprived of.
The Criminal Justice System provides that in criminal cases, the burden of proof required to convict a person is proof beyond reasonable doubt and this burden lies in the State. This means that if there is so much of an iota of doubt in the innocence or guilt of a person then the State has no choice but to let the accused go because it has not fully satisfied its burden.
Wrongful conviction is caused by several factors such as improper forensics, false conviction and other unfortunate incidents. Improper or unvalidated forensics is one of the biggest causes of wrongful conviction in the United States. Before DNA testing was available, many individuals were sent to prison on the basis of the eyewitness testimonies which are not one hundred percent accurate. The discovery of DNA analysis in the 80’s greatly helped in ruling out and identifying innocent from guilty persons.
Aside from DNA testing, other forensics tests are used to verify completely the identity of the victim and the accused such as tests to compare bite marks, shoe prints, firearms, hair microscopy and many more. Some of these may not be fully subjected to rigid evaluation and there may be a tendency for these tests to be handled incorrectly or presented vaguely in trial which in turn may lead to a wrongful conviction (Innocence Project, N. d.).
Innocent individuals also get convicted based on false confessions not only from them but from acclaimed eye witnesses as well. In some cases, the accused, even though innocent says some incriminating statements that sooner or later lead to their conviction. There are many reasons why innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit.
Some of them are just coerced or under duress when they made that statement. Studies show that some confessions are influenced by the mental state of the person. For instance, confession from minors are often unreliable given the fact that they are not fully aware of the repercussions of their actions and they can easily be persuaded. Children under legal age can seem to be quite vulnerable that some law enforcers seem to take advantage of this kind of situation(Innocence Project, 2003).
When a crime happens and the victim files a charge, he becomes a witness for the State and in turn, the government will do everything they can to overturn the burden and get the bad guy out of the street. It is a good thing that the State is there to protect its people, however, it becomes a bad thing when the prosecution oversteps some boundaries in order to secure a conviction regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
The Criminal Justice System should be given credit for their hard work solving crimes and capturing the guilty. The police and other fellow law enforcers are reliable and trust worthy but as rewarding as the job is, there can be a few bad apples in the department and as sad as it is to admit, these incidences cause people to lose faith in the government (Innocence Project, 2003).
Helping the victims get justice for what happened to them and putting guilty people in jail are both remarkable acts but helping an innocent person escape the punishment he does not deserve also has its own equal reward.
Innocence Project. N. d. Understand `the Causes. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from http://www.innocenceproject.org/about/Contact-Us.php
Innocence Project. 2003. North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission.Retrieved June 3, 2009, from http://www.innocenceproject.org/docs/NC_Innocence_Commission_Mission.html
Volokh, A. 1997. n Guilty Men. University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/guilty.htm