Guilty or Innocent

Imagine someone being locked up in a cell for 25 years convicted of a crime he or she did not commit. This person whom has been locked up for all these years has been telling everyone that he or she is innocent of the crime they were convicted of. Even though this person was telling everyone this, nobody believed him or her for a long- time. Until one day, someone believed that persons story. With many people in prison, others tend to overlook the fact that some of those people are wrongfully convicted; there are many reasons for this wrongful conviction.

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More than 350 innocent people in prison since 1989 that have been exonerated and released from prison (Eppler. 2009, Para. 3). The most common wrongful conviction is eyewitness error. Many who are wrongfully convicted some of which are very famous in history such as Dr. Rubin (Hurricane) Carter. There have been exonerations in 34 of the 50 states since the twenty-first century begun. Many people who are or were convicted of a crime in which they did not commit.

According to Eppler (2009) a study of all exonerations DNA and non-DNA has found that there have been more than 350 people wrongfully convicted and subsequently exonerated in the United States since 1989. (Para. 3) In 1989 the first DNA exoneration took place, which was for Gary Dotson. Gary Dotson was proven innocent of being convicted of rape. Since there has been thousands and thousands of DNA testing to prove that people were wrongfully convicted.

There are those people who believe that if a person was or is put in prison then there must be a reason for it, without taking into consideration that the people may have been wrongfully convicted. There are many different reasons for wrongful convictions that have been discovered in capital cases and many other cases some of the causes of wrongful conviction are; eye witness error, junk science, government misconduct, snitch testimony, false confessions, and biased juries. Eyewitness errors are where someone may have been confused or just have a faulty memory.

Junk science where people mishandled the evidence and the crime scene, which could also be government misconduct by the police or other government official. Many people have a misunderstanding about government officials especially police officers that is all police officers are trustworthy and they tend to forget that police officers are just people like everyone else who also has to decide what is correct and what s wrong. Snitch testimony where another person is trying to get there sentence reduced with a plea bargain by telling on someone else ven if it is or is not the truth. There are false confessions where people have confessed to a crime because he or she is mentally ill, they have been tortured by the police to confess to a crime he or she did not commit, some other causes for false confessions are; duress, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, ignorance of the law, fear of violence, misunderstanding the situation, and the threat of a harsher sentence. Also there are biased juries where people do not get to have the jury made up of his or hers peers.

Below is how each of these falls in a category with the most common being eyewitness error, in which is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75 percent of convictions being overturned through DNA testing. (Dieter. 2009). (Death Penalty Information Center) In more than 25% of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation. The study that was conducted in1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratories.

Police misconduct and biased juries were the cause in over half of all the convictions. These cases were exonerated by the DNA evidence (Eppler. 2009). Larry Peterson is an example of wrongful conviction. According to Dieter (2009) Larry Peterson was wrongly convicted in 1989 of murder and sexual assault which got him the sentence of life in prison. In Petersons’ case there were four different people who falsely testified against him. Of those four people three of them where him coworkers and one of them was a jailhouse snitch. During an investigation of the crime, police interviewed some of Peterson’s co-workers several times.

After lengthy interrogations, threats of prosecution and other questionable police tactics, the three men said Peterson had confessed to them during a ride to work. Records have since shown that Peterson did not work on the day these men said the confession occurred. As for the jailhouse snitch who had pending charges in three counties also testified that Peterson confessed to being guilty of the crime to him while they were in county jail together. Peterson struggled to convince people that he was innocent but eventually someone believed him. DNA testing in 2005 proved that he was innocent and he was exonerated in 2006.

James Woodard a man in Texas was exonerated April 29, 2009 after DNA testing proved his innocence. He was the eighteenth person whom was set free in Dallas County. Woodard was convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend, he spent 27 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA testing. Texas Senator Rodney Ellis said on April 29, 2008 “We’ve reached a tipping point on wrongful convictions in Texas. Nobody can seriously doubt that there is a problem. ” There have been over 30 exonerations of wrongfully convicted inmates in Texas since 2001. There are many people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime.

It has taken some 27 years to prove their innocence even from setting inside the prison cell. Another example of this is Dr. Rubin Carter. This is one of the most popular cases in history. He was wrongfully convicted in 1966 and it took him until 1988 to be released from prison. He proved that he was innocent of one crime to later be charged in 1996 of selling drugs which he was also proven as a wrongfully convicted case for which he was released when the cops realized there mistake. The photo below is a picture of Dr. Rubin (Hurricane) Carter in the New Jersey State Prison in August 1975.

There is help for those who think that they have been wrongfully convicted. Some of this help comes from an organization known as the EJI (Equal Justice Initiative). They provide the free service of trying to prove that a person who is incarcerated is innocent. The EJI are helping those who are on death row that were illegally convicted, they also help those who are sentenced with harsh terms of imprisonment, children who were sentenced to adult prisons and the mentally ill along with many others To this day there have been nearly 130 people since 1973 released from death row because their innocence was uncovered.

The EJI has helped dozens of people who were illegally convicted. (Equal Justice, 2009) Many people believe that if a person has been convicted of a crime and placed in prison or put on death row then there is a reason for it. Whether that person really committed the crime or whether that person is just a bad person then they deserve to be in prison. These people do not think that a nice and caring person could be so wrongfully convicted. According to a case that was in Texas a man named Cameron Willingham was innocent of arson in which his three children died.

But they did not know he was innocent until it was too late because he had already been put to death. He was a loving father who tried his hardest to get back into the burning house to get the children but he was restrained by the firefighters and police officers to keep him from doing so. There are many cases in which a person is innocent but it is found out to late. The average length of time served by those exonerated by DNA testing is 12 years in prison (Eppler. 2009). With all of the technology that has been developed over the years we are just being able to use DNA testing to prove the innocence of some meant and women.

Some of these men and women have spent most of their lives in prison forma crime they did not commit. There are many reasons that a person is wrongfully convicted as the research has shown. There have been exonerations in 34 of the 50 States since the twenty-first century began (the year 2000). Many people just assume that someone is guilty until he or she can prove their innocence, whereas with the government today it is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. With all the evidence that is available it seems that the government believes the same way as most people do.

A counter argument to innocent people being in prison is that if he or she could not prove their innocence before he or she is sentenced to prison then they must be guilty enough to be in prison. Every day there is someone who is wrongfully convicted of a crime in which it will take them close to 12 years to get proven innocent. Most of the time the reason that people get exonerated is because there is another person whom can be arrested for the crime so that the crime does not go unsolved, which would lead to the lawyers and judges conviction rates to decrease if it went unsolved.

Which many lawyers and judges do not want their rate to fall and all they really care about are their reputations that are involved, instead of caring about the person whom they are defending or trying to prove with the evidence that the person is guilty. With all of the technology and ability available to society today, a person would figure that the crime rate would be less and criminals would not want to commit any crimes. The way things have gone is that the more technology available the smart the criminals are getting and the easier it is for a crime to be committed.

There are still a large amount of people in prison who are innocent and who will never get that chance to be free again because the evidence for the case they were tried for in the beginning has been lost or destroyed. There is also those who were convicted of a crime that have lost the hope of being proven innocent because they have been in prison for so long that they would not know how to do anything in the world (this is called institutionalized). Even though there is a large amount of innocent people in the prison system there is also some that are guilty.

If every case was to go through the DNA testing then there would be about half that would be innocent. The problem with this is that not everyone wants to be proven innocent. So people have to keep in mind that just because someone is in prison it does not always mean that he or she is guilty of the crime in which they were convicted. People have to keep in mind that there are a large amount of innocent people in prison who are actually innocent of the crime for which they were tried and that that he or she is not just saying that they are innocent.

References Deal, C. (1975). Hurricane Carter. The other side of the story. Retrieved October 16, 2009. From http://www. graphicwitness. com/carter/carterjail. html Dieter, R. (2009). Causes of Wrongful Convictions. Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved September 17, 2009. From http://www. deathpenaltyinfo. org/causes-wrongful-convictions Eppler, D. (2009). Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. Exonerate. org. Retrieved September 17, 2009, from http://www. exonerate. rg/facts/ Equal Justice Initiative. (2009). EJI-Wrongful Convictions. Retrieved September 17, 2009, From http://www. eji. org/eji/deathpenalty/wrongfulconvictions Marshal, L. (2006). Northwestern Law. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from http://www. law. northwestern. edu/cwc/exonerations/iDotsonSummary. html Stoddard, Ed. (2008). DNA frees Texas man imprisoned for 27 years. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from http://www. reuters. com/article/newsOne/idUSN2938136220080430


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