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Understanding the factors that lead to wrongful incarceration in Michigan

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2015 | Wrongful Conviction |

There are several factors that contribute to wrongful incrimination in the U.S., including eyewitness misidentification and false confessions.

The U.S. judicial system promises that people are innocent until proven guilty in court. Flaws in the criminal process in Michigan and across the U.S., however, are responsible for sending countless people to prison even though they are innocent of their criminal charges. According to the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to exonerating people who have been wrongfully incarcerated, at least 320 people have been released from their sentences after being found innocent of their crimes. In the majority of the cases, DNA testing was responsible for providing key evidence that ultimately proved their innocence.

Five of those cases were people who were wrongful imprisoned in Michigan. One such man spent a total of 17 years in prison for a rape and murder that he did not commit. The real criminal still has not been identified. The innocent man was a victim of poor defense representation and false confession. The man, who suffered from mental illness, was fed details of the crime by law enforcement officers, and then asked to confess to the crime in order to help them identify the true suspect. The lawyer appointed to his case diverted the investigation to a convicted felon. Although the man was finally exonerated after DNA testing proved his innocence, he passed away two years after gaining his freedom.

Sadly, there are countless people waiting behind bars with similar stories. The Innocence Project points to the following causes of erroneous incrimination and incarceration in the U.S.:

1. Eyewitness misidentification

Bad eyewitness identifications are the number one cause of wrongful incarceration, and were involved in more than 70 percent of exonerated cases. Not only are there flaws in the lineup process and other police procedures, but racial barriers, environmental restraints and limitations of the human mind are also a factor.

2. False confessions

Surprisingly, in 31 of the exonerated cases, innocent people pled guilty to the crime. In some cases, officer coercion and mental illness were involved.

3. Informants

Prison informants may point a finger at a suspect, sometimes in order to get a shorter prison sentence or some other type of kickback. Needless to say, the information that comes from these informants is often highly inaccurate, but may still be used in court.

4. Improper use of forensic science or use of unvalidated tests

Whether a credible test is performed incorrectly or a test that has not been proven as being scientifically valid is used, the results may be inaccurate.

Bad lawyering and government misconduct have also been named as potential contributors to erroneous incrimination.

Partnering with an established attorney

Whether you are facing charges for a violent crime or a DUI, your future is on the line. Being convicted of a crime can change your life forever. You may want to partner with a knowledgeable criminal attorney who is familiar with Michigan laws. A lawyer can explore your case in detail and may help to determine your best course of action.