Understanding the factors that lead to wrongful incrimination

There are several factors that can lead a jury to wrongfully convict an innocent person of a crime.

Not everyone who receives a jail or prison sentence is guilty of committing a crime. A number of people who are currently sitting behind bars are actually innocent, and have been wrongfully charged and convicted. The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to freeing and clearing the names of people who have been erroneously imprisoned, has exonerated 341 people from prison. As a result, many people in South Carolina and across the U.S. are left to wonder what flaws in the judicial system caused these innocent people to become incarcerated in the first place.

One South Carolina man was finally released from prison after spending just over 14 years of his life behind bars. Not only was the man the unfortunate victim of eyewitness misidentification, but the forensic analyst responsible for testifying at his trial gave bad information that may have helped sway the jury's verdict. The man was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty of first degree criminal sexual conduct. He was found innocent years later after forensic testing of the victim's clothes excluded him as the perpetrator.

Leading factors

There are several factors that may increase a person's risk of being wrongfully charged and convicted of a crime. Eyewitness misidentification is the most common cause of erroneous imprisonment, as it is involved in at least 70 percent of cases that have been exonerated by DNA testing. False memories, environmental conditions, disorganized lineups and even psychological misleading can cause a victim to choose the wrong person out of a lineup, according to the American Bar Association.

The Innocence Project also lists the following as factors that lead to false incrimination:

  • Bad attorneys who provide inadequate defense
  • Misconduct by the government
  • False confessions given under coercion, fear or ignorance
  • Informants that are rewarded for supplying information

In addition to these issues, the problem of poor forensic testing can also cause wrongful conviction. Some forensic tests and procedures, such as hair analysis, bite mark comparisons and shoe print comparisons, which are used as evidence in court have not been validated as providing scientifically accurate results. Furthermore, tests that do yield reliable results may be improperly conducted or fabricated to give inaccurate readings as well.

Defending your rights

If you have been charged with a crime and are overwhelmed at the prospect of receiving a criminal conviction, you may want to seek counsel from a defense attorney in South Carolina. You have rights and a lawyer may be helpful in exploring your legal options.