If you have a subscription or google the title of the piece, you can read an interesting New York Times column about Brandon Garrett’s empirical analysis of 200 wrongful convictions.
- Study of Wrongful Convictions Raises Questions Beyond DNA, by Adam Liptak
The study in question is called Judging Innocence, but we have to wait until January to read it in the Columbia Law Review. In the meantime, consider the causes of wrongful convictions:
- Eyewitness Misidentification
- Unreliable or Limited Science
- False Confessions
- Forensic Science Fraud or Misconduct
- Government Misconduct
- Informants or Snitches
- Bad Lawyering
(The links above will take you to the Innocence Project in the US. In Canada, we have the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted.)
According to the study, the most common cause of conviction is eyewitness error. It is responsible for 79% of wrongful convictions. As if that were not astounding enough, false confessions were made by innocent people in 36 – or 18% – of the 200 cases.
This means two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions can be attributed to the frailties of human mind, because the instruments of justice rely on fallible statements by witnesses and the accused. If neurolaw is to make its mark anywhere in the criminal justice system, perhaps it should be in the prevention and correction of wrongful convictions.
(Hat tip goes to the Jonah Leher, for mention of the NYT column)