Wrongful Convictions

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The criminal justice in the United States is designed in a way that is supposed to allow a jury of the accused’s peers to find out what the truth is and then to make a recommendation, based on the law taught to them by the judge, as to what the verdict is. There are any number of rules in place to protect the innocent from being convicted but sometimes, accidents happen. When a person is convicted when he or she is actually innocent, it is a wrongful conviction or a miscarriage of justice.

One of the key safeguards against any conviction being incorrect is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what the prosecution says happened did actually happen. This standard does not require that a jury be 100% certain. It just requires, usually, that they have an exceptionally high degree of moral certitude that the accusations are true and that the defendant should be convicted.

The next safeguard against wrongful convictions are the whole set of rules regarding evidence. There are a huge number of rules that do not permit evidence in that will be “unduly prejudicial” or make the jury think something more than what the evidence shows. There are rules against using prior behavior and prior bad acts in a way to show propensity. There are even rules that prohibit individuals from testifying as to what a person not in the room said. This is important because this type of testimony does not allow the defense or the prosecution to cross-examine the individual who actually gave the testimony.

While the safeguards exist, there are still cases where people fall through the cracks and are wrongfully convicted. A miscarriage of justice, as it is sometimes known, is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime that he or she did not commit. If a person can prove through some effort that he or she was actually wrongfully convicted, the United States criminal justice system allows for a procedure to overturn the wrongful conviction.

The process to overturn a wrongful conviction is difficult and can take years. In these situations, an individual has been residing in prison for years and will never be able to get those years back. Worse, sometimes a conviction is not overturned until after an individual has died in prison. The worst possible situation occurs when a person has been executed by the state or government and it is then brought to light that the now-deceased was actually innocent the entire time.

Wrongful convictions are a hazard of any jury trial but the system is, for the most part, set up in a way that is more likely to let a guilty person go free than it is to imprison an innocent one.

The Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys of Palmer & Associates understand the perils of a wrongful conviction and the significant behind a trial. They are committed to providing their clients the best defense possible.

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