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  1. A Record Number Of People Were Exonerated In For Crimes They Didn’t Commit | HuffPost
  2. Welcome to CAP Law
  3. List of wrongful convictions in the United States
  4. wrongful convictions

Under pressure from the Ohio attorney general — the top prosecutor in the state — Elkins was released on December 15, Three years later, in , Mann pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, attempted murder, burglary, and rape in the crimes against Judith Johnson and Brooke Sutton. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Elkins and Melinda divorced shortly after his release. Elkins has remarried. After suffering periods of unemployment and setbacks from post-traumatic stress disorder, he is trying to start a new life. A shocking 45 percent of the documented sixteen hundred wrongful convictions are the result of bad acts or omissions by police and prosecutors.

It includes, but is not limited to coercing, coaching, or threatening witnesses; physically beating defendants until they give false confessions; neglecting to turn over exculpatory evidence or actively hiding it altogether; making false representations to the court and to the jury; and committing perjury.

A Record Number Of People Were Exonerated In For Crimes They Didn’t Commit | HuffPost

The percentage of false convictions arising from official misconduct often overlaps with percentages involving perjury; that is, many wrongful convictions are due, at least in part, to false testimony that is coerced or partially fabricated by the police. Consider Debra Milke.


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In , she was a divorced single mother living in Phoenix, Arizona, with her four-year-old son, Christopher, and roommate James Styer. On December 2, , Styer left their apartment with Christopher, ostensibly to take him to the mall to see Santa Claus. Instead, he picked up his friend Roger Scott. Styer and Scott drove the little boy deep into the desert where they shot him three times in the back of the head and left him in a ravine.

The lead detective, Armando Saldate Jr. Milke was taken to a police station and put in a cell. Saldate entered, placed her under arrest, and proceeded to interrogate her. No one else was present in the room or observed the interview. Ignoring the instructions of his supervisor, Saldate did not tape-record it. Milke was convicted of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse, and kidnapping. In , the judge sentenced her to death. Sign up. In and again in , Saldate lied to a grand jury, which forced the judges in both cases to dismiss the indictments.

In — the same year Milke was convicted and sentenced to die — a judge threw out another case after Saldate admitted that he lied under oath and continued to question the defendant after he invoked his right to remain silent. In one case, the defendant did not know his own name, the year, or the name of the president of the United States. In , twenty-three years after Milke was sent to death row, the Ninth Circuit overturned her conviction.

Prosecutors also commit misconduct. Often, it is the result of overzealousness, inadvertence, or negligence, as win-at-all-costs prosecutors are often rewarded with promotions and many offices lack the resources to properly train them in their constitutional and ethical obligations. But sometimes prosecutorial misconduct is calculated and even malicious.

The two most notorious cases in recent memory — and perhaps not coincidentally, among only a handful in which the prosecutor faced consequences — targeted innocent white men. In , Michael B. Nifong, then the district attorney for Durham, North Carolina, indicted three Duke University lacrosse players for raping an African American stripper who had danced at a team party. When the woman was unable to identify her attackers, Nifong showed her photographs only of lacrosse players, an extremely suggestive practice that violated the guidelines of his own office.

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The players all had strong alibis, which Nifong discounted. When the DNA evidence did not point to the defendants, Nifong withheld it from them. Even after the woman changed her story, Nifong insisted on going forward with the kidnapping charges. The case made national headlines from the start because of the salaciousness of the crime and the fact that the defendants were white and largely came from wealthy families.

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This distinguished them from the vast majority of people accused of serious, life-ending crimes. The money bought them excellent lawyers, who diligently investigated the allegations and were able to disprove them, sparing the men the horror of convictions that could have sent them to prison and labeled them lifelong sex offenders. The case remained in the spotlight for months, and political pressure on Nifong mounted. Then Nifong was himself prosecuted for withholding DNA evidence from the defense and lying about it in court.

List of wrongful convictions in the United States

He received a one-day jail sentence. Most people do not have the resources the Duke lacrosse players had. In , Ken Anderson, then the district attorney and a former Texas Prosecutor of the Year, charged Morton with the murder of his wife, telling the jury that Morton masturbated over her dead body before leaving the house to go to work. Morton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Anderson obtained the conviction by withholding crucial evidence that showed Morton was not the killer. In , Morton was released after the Innocence Project demanded the retesting of a bloody bandanna found a hundred yards from the crime scene.

The results matched those of the true attacker, Mark Alan Norwood, who had gone on to murder another woman under similar circumstances. Meanwhile, Ken Anderson had become a judge.

At the end of the process, a judge ruled that Anderson had broken state law and committed perjury by lying to the court. After Anderson was convicted and sentenced to serve ten days in jail, his license to practice law was revoked and he resigned from the bench.

While it is true that Nifong and Anderson were disgraced and prevented from practicing law, their respective one- and ten-day jail sentences are paltry in comparison to the massive damage they caused, particularly Anderson. Yet, these are exceptional cases because there was any punishment at all.

The majority of prosecutors who commit misconduct are never disciplined, much less disbarred or charged with crimes. Junk science — usually physical in nature and often explained by seemingly well-credentialed experts — is a particularly pernicious kind of evidence because it is so persuasive to jurors, who are fed a steady diet of crime-show procedurals that portray these methods as unfailingly accurate and central to catching the bad guy.

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wrongful convictions

Yet junk science has led to convictions that haunt the public as wrongful. Take Cameron Todd Willingham. So-called arson experts were used to convict Willingham of setting a fire that killed his three small children in Corsicana, Texas, in But the state declined to review the case. Questions about his case continue to swirl. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson. He later recanted. This is different from DNA evidence retrieved from a hair follicle, which embeds the hair in the skin and can point conclusively at a single perpetrator.

In the s, the United States Department of Justice undertook an investigation into allegations that some of the hair analysis work by an FBI crime lab was error-ridden. Over the years, the investigation expanded, morphing into an indictment of an entire system of collecting, testing, and relying on so-called hair science evidence. By the time the news became public, fourteen of them had been executed or died in prison. Experts believe that there are at least twenty-one thousand additional cases — state and federal — that used this discredited science and therefore must be reexamined. Group exonerations are alarming for three reasons.

First, they are underreported… Second, it is profoundly disturbing to realize that individual or small-group misconduct can have such exponential impact. A black man, he was convicted in of raping, robbing, and sodomizing a white woman in Washington, DC, and then sentenced to a minimum of twenty years in prison.

Odom, who was raped in prison and contracted HIV, was paroled in March , but forced to register as a sex offender, which placed severe restrictions upon where he could live, work, and travel. The victim identified Odom, and the state bolstered the conviction with what appeared to be irrefutable forensic science. The retesting resulted in a genetic profile of the rapist that categorically excluded Odom and pointed to another man. A judge exonerated Odom and signed a certification proclaiming his innocence on July 13, More than thirty years had passed since his conviction, twenty-two of which he spent in prison.

Because the statute of limitations had long since run out, the real perpetrator could not be prosecuted. Adele Bernhard, the lawyer who advocated successfully for Villalobos, retained an expert named John Lentini to pore over the old forensic evidence. After reexamining the case, they came to the same conclusion: the fire that Quick testified the men had set deliberately was almost certainly an accident.

Wrongful Convictions - A National Disgrace

Thirteen percent of the first sixteen hundred exonerees falsely confessed to crimes they did not commit. Understandably, this statistic is difficult to accept.

What sane person would ever admit to committing a heinous crime unless he was guilty? Yet, people do. There is no single explanation for this phenomenon, but many of the people who give false confessions are vulnerable to police coercion because they are young, unsophisticated, poorly educated, of below-average intelligence, or some combination of the four. The law allows police to lie to suspects, and many suspects admit to wrongdoing after being told they will be allowed to go home, avoid charges, or plead to a minor offense.