Although wrongful convictions is an increasingly common topics of discussion for those in criminal justice field and academics, it is difficult to determine how often it occurs.
According to zalman, smith and kigner (2008), there is no specific way to measure these miscarriages of justice, but are two common methods to estimate the level of occurrence. while there have been hundreds of people exonerated for multiple reasons, as shown by the data from the innocence project and other organizations, it is clear that some participants in the criminal justice field do not view wrongful conviction as a problems serious enough to warrant reform.
This paper talks about the wrongful convictions. The reasons or causes of wrongful convictions, its impact on innocent persons, and society at large. This article especially talks about how state can avoid these wrongful convictions.
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
-Sir William Blackstone.
India a democratic and self-governing country, with second largest population in the world, judiciary been one of the most important organ of government. Sometimes fails to sever justice by the way of wrongful conviction. The problem of wrongful conviction is not only face by our country, but by almost every country in the world, particularly “US” where previous literature has indicated that wrongful convictions are estimated to occur in about 1 percent to 5 percent of all convictions in the unites states. Annually about 10,000 convictions hanged down in the u.s are thought to be wrongful convictions4. A wrongful conviction takes place when innocent-defendants are found guilty in our legal system. It also refers to when a jury finds a person with a good defense guilty. A wrongful conviction is an injustice or miscarriage of justice when an innocent person spends years behind a bar or a death row. This injustice is occurring everyday in the Indian courts, where as it raises profound doubts about the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice systems. It is a well known belief that searing injustice and consequential social injury is caused...When the law turns upon itself and convicts an innocent person4.
Various fundamental principles like presumption of innocent and other principles have been incorporated in the criminal procedural code, to ensure that such injustice is not caused. One of such grave injustice is when an innocent is accused of a crime, he never committed.
The term wrongful conviction has been derived from the western countries, chiefly in U.K, U.S.A, where the problem of wrongful conviction is seen as a problematic of abuse of human rights of the condemned person. The term wrongful conviction here is examined in term of mixture of two notions i.e;
Wrongful here stands where the examination, recording of admission ID by the witness, and the right to advise laws are not tracked or where the conviction seems to prejudiced, or in the acquiescence with the constitutional promisor. Conviction here is as in the maker after judgment stage function where either trial court or first appellate court has judged the case wrongly. Thus wrongful conviction is to be recognized based on the final appellate court decisions that may choose about the wrongfulness of conviction on a version of many issues.
WHAT IS WRONGFUL CONVICTION:
According to Duhaime’s law dictionary “a wrongful conviction is a conviction of a person accused of a crime which, is the result of the subsequent investigation, proves erroneous”.
“Wrongful conviction” is an ambiguous term, has come to refer to the convictions of factually innocent persons. The better term might be “false conviction”. The term “miscarriage of justice” is often use to mean factually false convictions but could more neutrally include so-called wrongful acquittals and impunity from prosecution as well as wrongful conviction. Although the fear of convicting innocent has always been a concern of legal system, the issue gained heightened salience with development of DNA profiling to convict and exclude suspects, with near-certain accuracy, after 1989.
The concept of wrongful conviction in India is not a new concept. This concept has only been increase.
Wrongful conviction is a form of conviction secured by an individual who is innocent but convicted due to state negligence. It is form of miscarriage of justice which violates the basic principle of law and results in an erroneous conviction and prosecution. It can be intentional or malicious, but many of times, in fact it is due to sheer callousness of authorities.
S.C in ayodhya dube & ors V. ram sumar singh6held that lack of judicial approach, non-application of mind by the prosecution and the courts and inappropriate consideration of important evidence amounts to perversity which can give rise to grave miscarriage of justice.
Miscarriage of justice has gone through many interpretations by courts. The court in K.chinna swamy reddy V. state of Andhra Pradesh held that a glaring defect in the procedure or a patent error in law can lead to flagrant miscarriage of justice. In state of Punjab V. madan mohan lal verma v, the court held that non-compliance of the principle of natural justice deprives the accused to explain a particular circumstance.
Wrongful conviction is a violation of human rights. Thus the concepts has been enumerated in the universal declaration of human rights committee also has elaborated that states must enact a suitable legislation to ensure that compensation is paid to the victims in case of wrongful conviction and that the payment is made within a reasonable time frame.
WHAT ARE THE WIDE-RANGING REASONS OF THE WRONGFUL CONVICTION
The strength of our criminal justice system depends on its accuracy-its ability to convict the guilty and to clear the innocent. But we know that wrongful convictions happen. Identifying and understanding the causes of wrongful convictions is critical to maintain the integrity of our justice system.
The innocence project9 report that 70% of wrongful conviction, 44% by invalid forensic, 28% by false confession, and 17% by police informants.
Following are common causes of wrongful conviction, these are not the only causes, however.
Eyewitness misidentification is the most frequent contribution to wrongful conviction cases. Not only is the issue of wrongful convictions by way of witness misidentification born from human error, but it’s allowed to progress because of the system’s historical preference of eyewitness testimony and because of a lack of studies that rightly discredit eyewitness with false information.
INVALID FORENSIC SCIENCE
The second most frequent contributor to wrongly convictions is perhaps unexpected for some people because science is often found to be most reliable. That is why a study was conduct to determine how frequently forensic evidence provided at trial was later proven to be invalid; it found that 60% of wrongful conviction case were influenced in part by a misstatement or misrepresentation of scientific evidence by forensic experts.
The next most frequent contributors to wrongful convictions are false confessions
Wherein any element is untrue, but usually end in the interview falsely indentifying a suspect, confessing to a crime, or providing other incorrect information.
Police informants also contribute to wrongful conviction. Typically, police informants are seen as criminals who are willing to do whatever necessary to stay out of person, and often they have no qualm with falsifying testimony to make a deal. this common occurrence make it difficult for police to reach the individual who might have accurate information but are too afraid to come forward.
Another contributor to wrongful convictions is government misconduct. This can be defined as overly suggestive witness coaching, offering incendiary and inappropriate closing arguments, or failing to disclose critical evidence to the defence.
Main contributors to wrongful conviction is currently inevitable; insufficient lawyering. Forcing new and inexperienced defense counsel to represent individuals with potentially large case presents many issues, such as elevated anxiety and unfamiliarity with the inner working and nuances of trial. this makes it difficult for innocent defendants to receive appropriate verdicts and thus increase false conviction rates.
Another element of insufficient lawyering includes failures in fact-finding; the structure & limits of prosecutors.
IMPACT OF WRONGFUL CONVICTION:
The wrongfully convicted suffer many forms of psychological trauma resulting from their imprisonment and from the struggles inherently incident to rebuilding their lives after exoneration. Even those who serve minimal time in prison are not exempt from this suffering. Although some of the psychological consequences of wrongful conviction are irreversible, state could stand to do more to mitigate the pain.
You will appreciate that the victim of wrongful conviction suffers two ways in the criminal justice system.
Firstly, its personal, because it’s the victim of wrongful conviction who suffered jail time, secondly, the victim of wrongful conviction is condemned for rest of his life with societal demise and hate, due to failure of criminal judicial system. These people are punished in such a way that even if they are wrongfully convicted are later exonerated but still after going into society they’re publicly hated, demised whether due to public disgust and hatred for a particular crime or the story attached to it.
We’re familiar with the procedure that in every civilized state a suspect who commits a crime is apprehended, bought to trial, and is found guilty convict and sentenced. What if the person is convicted in a rape case in absence of any DNA sample where it would have made him innocent? Is the victim consigned to the limbo of forgotten things.
TACTICS STATE CAN USE TO AVOID WRONGFUL CONVICTION:
In case of eyewitness misidentification the solution to avoid wrongful conviction is perhaps tripartite: allowing expert testimony when the only evidence against the defendant is eyewitness testimony: improving procedures for collecting eyewitness evidence; and properly educating the principle participants in a trial about the effects of eyewitness factors (wise, dauphinais, &safer, 2007).
Wise etal. (2007) states that psychologist purpose two solutions to improve the procedure of collecting eyewitness evidence. First the police officer who conducts the eyewitness interview should not know the identity of the suspect to prevent unconscious or subconscious incrimination. Second, defense attorneys should b present during the interviews so members of the court can be informed of any improprieties that may have occurred. The third component involves educating the principal participants in trials. Educating the principal participants in a trial could mean the preemptive screening of witness testimony for its probative value before it’s presented to the jury.
Awareness of the role of government misconduct in wrongful conviction will make the overall justice system more equitable, which will eventually lower the case of wrongful convictions.
It’s important to right the wrong of mistake and prevent the future mistake. Suggestions for improvement includes increased use of compensation lawsuit for those wrongful convicted, increased access to post conviction DNA testing, more reliable evidence prevention, eyewitness identification reforms, increased forensic oversight, recording of interrogations, and increased formation and use of innocence commissions national wide.
As it’s clear that wrongful convictions are harmful to innocent citizens, as well an already overburdened criminal justice system. Wrongful convictions shake the confidence of people on judicial system. For founding faith in the people of any country towards the legal organization/ judicial system, the truth and attitude of criminal justice system need to be protected. This can only be understood when the guilty are convicted & the innocent & absolved from punishment.
“Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere”
-MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.
SULTAN UL ULOOM COLLEGE OF LAW, OSMANIA UNIVERSITY.