A number of people in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. currently sit behind bars, serving a sentence imposed on them by a court of law. Surprisingly, however, not all people in prison are guilty of committing a crime. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 87 people were released from their prison sentences in 2013 after they were found to have been falsely convicted of a crime. The issue of wrongful convictions in the United States shows that certain flaws in the judicial system must be attended to.
Recently, a North Carolina man was exonerated from criminal charges, which in 1995 found him guilty for arson and double-murder. DNA evidence proved his innocence, after he spent 24 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit. Another North Carolina man was imprisoned for 30 years and sentenced to death before he was released from DNA evidence. His wrongful conviction involved government misconduct and false confessions.
As the number of people who have been erroneously convicted of a crime continues to climb, many people are wondering what is causing this problem. The Innocence Project reported that there are several factors that can contribute to a wrongful conviction. These include the following:
- Eyewitness misidentification
- Government misconduct
- Informants that are given incentives to testify against a suspect
- Use of forensic testing that has not been scientifically validated or that has been improperly conducted
- False confessions that may be coerced by law enforcement
Eyewitness mis-identification is by far the most common contributor to erroneous convictions. In fact, more than 70 percent of cases that were later exonerated involved a suspect that was wrongfully identified from a physical or photo lineup. Although eyewitness testimonies and identifications are admissible as evidence in court, studies show that they are extremely unreliable. In many states, there are no set standards on how law enforcement should conduct eyewitness lineups. This leaves room for error, discrepancies and potential leading of the witness.
Upholding your rights in court
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, it may be time to turn to a criminal attorney regarding your legal rights and options. A criminal conviction can affect many areas of your life, including your ability to obtain financial loans, be approved for housing, hold a professional license or obtain a position in certain industries. When talking to a criminal attorney, you will want to explore your legal options and ensure your rights are being upheld in court.