Common Causes Of Wrongful Conviction

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One of the seven most common causes of wrongful conviction is eyewitness misidentification. In fact, out of the seven most common causes, it is “the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide” (Innocence Project). This problem comes about when a witness to a crime identifies someone, wrongly, as the perpetrator. “The human mind is not like a tape recorder” and our memories are greatly affected by many different factors which play a role in how we process an event that took place. Similarly, witnesses are known to change their mind about the appearance of a suspect when given new information and will often make “hesitant…show more content…
It has contributed to “nearly half (45%) of DNA exoneration cases” (Innocence Project). Misapplication of forensic science is a broad category that encompasses unreliable or invalid forensic discipline, insufficient validation of a method, misleading testimony, mistakes, and misconduct. This categorization makes it easier for the Innocent Project to advocate for general policy changes and to document and analyze specific incidents/cases. A specific example of the misapplication of forensic science is the conviction of Steven Avery. “Steven Avery, at the age of 22, was wrongfully convicted of rape. He spent almost twenty years in prison before being exonerated through DNA testing” (Innocence Project). He was accused of raping a woman, named Penny Ann Beernsten, who happened to be jogging alongside a lake before being dragged into a wooded area and then assaulted. She identified Steven as the perpetrator because of his stunning resemblance to the actual rapist. The forensic mishap occurred when “a state forensic examiner testified that a hair recovered from a shirt of Avery’s was consistent with Beernsten’s hair but did not present qualifying information about the limitations of hair microscopy” (Innocence Project). Thus, with only an incorrect witness identification and a careless examiner’s presentation of hair microscopy, Steven was convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Forensic evidence is obviously a strong force for conviction because no one is going to argue with the science. Thus, when the jury and the judge see a forensic examiner testify that hair matches with the suspect, they will most likely lean more toward conviction. One way that a case like this could be prevented in the future is by “Supporting judicial training and other efforts to ensure that future decisions in admissibility consider the validity of a forensic test in general, and the validity
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