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Forensic Victimology 2nd Edition Chapter Nineteen: Miscarriages of Justice - Victims of the Criminal Justice System.

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Presentation on theme: "Forensic Victimology 2nd Edition Chapter Nineteen: Miscarriages of Justice - Victims of the Criminal Justice System."— Presentation transcript:

1 Forensic Victimology 2nd Edition Chapter Nineteen: Miscarriages of Justice - Victims of the Criminal Justice System

2 Miscarriages of Justice The criminal justice system is not always fair and impartial. Consequently, a criminal defendant can becomes a victim of bias, corruption, ignorance, error and even indifference. Miscarriage of justice is a general term used to describe the inequity which occurs when a victim or offender does not receive fair treatment by the justice system, often resulting in a legal outcome that is not in their favor. A wrongful conviction is a particular type of miscarriage of justice in which a defendant is found legally guilty in a court despite being factually innocent of the crime.

3 A Historical Perspective Historically, courts of law, even when tempered by juries and adversarial systems, have made errors. Examples of miscarriages of justice can be seen in The Bible, the case of three Perrys in England (1660), and the case of the Boorn brothers (1812). In modern history, the first person to be exonerated of a criminal conviction with DNA evidence was Gary Dotson in the 1980s. As of this writing, according to the Innocence Project, there have been at least 306 DNA exonerations in the United States.

4 Nomothetically Speaking: The Aggregate There is no centralized database from which to draw numbers – each of the United States, even each individual county, keeps and maintains data regarding wrongful convictions, or fails to do so, in their own way. The available numbers that do exist are limited to capital cases and some rape cases where DNA evidence has been preserved, and where the judiciary has permitted post-conviction review.

5 Nomothetically Speaking: The Aggregate Consider the following numbers: One study determined that the minimum factually wrongful conviction rate for rape-homicide alone, in the 1980s, was about 5%. In a study of exonerations in the US from 1989-2001, 340 exonerations were found – 144 cleared by DNA evidence. In a study conducted on state capital cases between 1973-1995, the courts sentence was overturned approximately 68% of the time because it was wrong – either because of actual innocence or the identification of some other miscarriage or justice.

6 Causal Factors There are multiple potential origins for any wrongful conviction. Based on a study of 200 postconviction DNA exonerations, eyewitness identification and false or misleading forensic evidence top the list.

7 Causal Factors Incorrect Eyewitness Identification –From a jurors perspective, eyewitness testimony is one of the most persuasive forms of evidence. –However, psychological studies have indicated that even the most sincere eyewitnesses are frequently inaccurate. –Various factors, such as the passage of time, the introduction of new information, and the identification procedures used by police can influence the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. –Eyewitness statements should be considered as part of a forensic analysis only when they can at least in part be corroborated by the established facts, or the reconstruction of physical evidence.

8 Forensic Experts & Wrongful Convictions Individuals have been found legally guilty in court while being factually innocent of the crime. Legal truth is a function of the prevailing judgments in a given court, which are susceptible to review, revision, and even reversal. It is a matter of law, which is dynamic. Scientific fact is determined using the scientific method and exists in a sphere independent of the court. No legal finding can change a scientific fact, it can only rule on its admissibility. However, the opposite occurs on a regular basis.

9 Faulty Forensics The defining quality of a forensic expert is the possibility that they will be called upon to present their findings, under penalty of perjury, in a court of law. Forensic fraud occurs when forensic examiners provide sworn testimony, opinions, or documents bound for court that contain deceptive or misleading information, findings, opinions, or conclusions, deliberately offered in order to secure an unfair or unlawful gain.

10 Reform Efforts In an effort to address the overwhelming and costly tide of DNA exonerations and related exoneree lawsuits, some governments have begun to take steps. These steps include the following: The development of Conviction Integrity Units - units intended to re-examine, and in some cases re- investigate, claims of actual innocence in post- conviction. The development of forensic science commissions - intended to serve as watchdog organizations to investigate allegations of fraud, misconduct, and negligence in the local forensic science community. The criminal prosecution of district attorneys

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