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Post-conviction matters: The tragedies of wrongful convictions

| Jan 9, 2020 | Post-Conviction Matters |

Whenever someone is wrongfully convicted in Michigan, the real perpetrator often continues to threaten society. For those who have been convicted of a crime they did not commit, an attorney who has experience in dealing with post-conviction matters and DNA evidence may be helpful. Wrongful convictions are tragedies that devastate the individual convicted in error and his or her family and loved ones.

Analysis of the DNA exonerations across the country shows several shortcomings in the criminal justice system. The most significant involve misidentification by eyewitnesses — some 75% of these wrongful convictions were based on evidence of mistaken identification. More than one-half of the overturned convictions involved forensic evidence — such as bite marks, fiber and hair comparisons — that were later invalidated.

Mental health problems or coercive interrogation techniques led to false confessions that featured in 25% of wrongful convictions. Next on the list are unreliable witnesses such as jailhouse informants, many of whom are unreliable. Some lie to benefit themselves, and such testimonies led to the convictions of 15% of those who were subsequently exonerated by DNA technology. In a small percentage of exonerations, misconduct by prosecutors or police were identified, often involving pressure to close cases.

Although the right of defendants to counsel aims to guarantee a proper defense, ineffective representation has caused a small percentage of wrongful convictions. The sensible step for anyone in Michigan who believes his or her conviction was a mistake is to retain the services of an attorney with experience in handling post-conviction matters. The lawyer may be able reopen the fight to correct any wrongs committed within the criminal justice system.