Wrongful Conviction

Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Wrongful Conviction
    Book Description:

    Imperfections in the criminal justice system have long intrigued the general public and worried scholars and legal practitioners. InWrongful Conviction, criminologists C. Ronald Huff and Martin Killias present an important collection of essays that analyzes cases of injustice across an array of legal systems, with contributors from North America, Europe and Israel. This collection includes a number of well-developed public-policy recommendations intended to reduce the instances of courts punishing innocents. It also offers suggestions for compensating more fairly those who are wrongfully convicted.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-647-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Part I Cross-National Perspectives and Issues
    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-10)

      The subject of wrongful conviction attracted some attention in the United States beginning in the 1930s, but most of the earlier literature focused primarily on discussions of individual cases (see, for example, Borchard, 1932; Gardner, 1952; Frank and Frank, 1957; Ehrmann, 1962; Radin, 1964). Some literature has dealt extensively with the most high-visibility cases, such as the Dreyfus affair in the nineteenth century (Chapman, 1955; Tuchman, 1962; Bredin, 1986); the infamous case of the “Scottsboro boys” in the 1920s (Carter, 1969); the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder in the 1930s (Kennedy, 1985); and more recent cases such as that of...

    • 2 Wrongful Conviction and Moral Panic: National and International Perspectives on Organized Child Sexual Abuse
      (pp. 11-32)

      The study of wrongful conviction has focused on the conviction of individuals in spite of evidence that casts serious doubt on the defendant’s guilt. This chapter examines a different type of case, in which several defendants may be convicted but in which doubt exists as to whether any crime was committed at all. The moral panic about organized abuse of children began in North America in the early 1980s, spread to other English-speaking countries, and is currently afflicting Western Europe. In this chapter I argue that the organized child abuse cases shed light on some weaknesses of Western legal systems...

    • 3 Judicial Error and Forensic Science: Pondering the Contribution of DNA Evidence
      (pp. 33-56)

      Judicial error or miscarriage of justice will “invariably identify at least some element of an earlier conviction as a mistake: whether evidential, procedural or material irregularity” (Edmond, 2002). In this chapter, we restrict ourselves to examining the contribution of forensic science as a catalyst of either enabling or detecting miscarriage of justice. New pieces of evidence and facts provide the evidence needed for successful appeal. With the advent of new techniques, forensic science can fill this gap. It allows for demonstrating errors without questioning the integrity of the legal system, being an extraneous factor to it. Because, in recent decades...

  4. Part II North American Perspectives and Issues
    • 4 Wrongful Convictions in the United States
      (pp. 59-70)

      The U.S. experience with the problem of wrongful conviction extends throughout the nation’s history, of course, and predates the formation of the United States as an independent nation. As citizens of a British colony, the colonists were often subjected to secret accusations without the right to question their accusers and were generally denied the types of due process rights that U.S. citizens have taken for granted since the development of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Although status differences were generally less important in the colonies than was the case in England, the American colonies were certainly not egalitarian,...

    • 5 The Adversary System and Wrongful Conviction
      (pp. 71-92)

      This chapter addresses two questions: What role is played by the adversary system and by the American adversary trial in generating miscarriages of justice? Are modifications to the American adversary trial and system that can reasonably hope to reduce miscarriages of justice feasible (see Huff, 2002: 15)? Given the great complexity of the adversary trial and the large scope of the adversary system, an attempted answer in a chapter must be partial, so I describe one potential modification suggested by an expert on evidence law (Risinger, 2004) and suggest a single improvement to the adversary system. Any comprehensive review of...

    • 6 Fatal Errors: Compelling Claims of Executions of the Innocent in the Post-Furman Era
      (pp. 93-116)

      With wrongful convictions firmly secure as a central issue in death penalty discourse, it is time to take the next logical step in the scholarly and political debates regarding wrongful convictions: identifying and examining compelling claims of innocence that resulted in execution rather than exoneration. Taking this step is difficult and controversial; difficult because the absence of legal recognition of error introduces an extra measure of uncertainty about the claims being made, controversial because what is at stake might be the most damning claim that can be made against the death penalty.

      Although it is widely recognized in the abstract...

    • 7 The Fallibility of Justice in Canada: A Critical Examination of Conviction Review
      (pp. 117-136)

      The concept of miscarriages of justice or justice in error has become an accepted phenomenon in most Western jurisdictions in recent years. A burgeoning body of literature in the United States has demonstrated that not only do wrongful convictions and wrongful imprisonments occur far more frequently than expected, but several specific, systemic factors clearly contribute to their occurrence (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Gross et al., 2005; Huff, 2004; Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer, 2000; Westervelt & Humphrey, 2001). Factors such as eyewitness error, false confession, overreliance on jailhouse informants, errors in forensic analysis, and police and prosecutorial misconduct have been established as causative...

  5. Part III European and Israeli Perspectives and Issues
    • 8 Wrongful Convictions in Switzerland: The Experience of a Continental Law Country
      (pp. 139-156)

      The risk of wrongfully convicting the innocent is, obviously, related to the extent to which the criminal justice system seeks to establish the truth in a balanced and fair manner. This, in turn, has to do with the legal safeguards and their respect, but also with the legal culture surrounding the establishment of relevant facts by the police and all other parties involved. In this chapter, I first give an overview of basic features of the Swiss criminal justice system.¹ In the second part, I review some cases of known wrongful convictions and highlight the critical role of police and...

    • 9 The Vulnerability of Dutch Criminal Procedure to Wrongful Conviction
      (pp. 157-182)

      The problem of wrongful convictions has only recently arrived on the public agenda in the Netherlands. Even so, it appears to be a question that vexes defense lawyers, the media, and some legal scholars and criminologists, rather than representatives of the criminal justice system or judges. When, in 1992 a multidisciplinary study—the first of its kind—examined thirty-five cases that had been sent in by defense lawyers who were not convinced of their clients’ guilt (Crombag, Van Koppen & Wagenaar, 1994), the reaction in the legal community was one of disbelief and skepticism. Although the authors did not contend that...

    • 10 Criminal Justice and Miscarriages of Justice in England and Wales
      (pp. 183-212)

      One expects in a fair and effective criminal justice system that evidence of guilt will be both overwhelming and clearly more convincing than the defendant’s claim to innocence. However, mistakes are inevitable. Memories are fragile and may be masked by emotion or even open to manipulation. In addition, strong inducements encourage both prosecution and defense to be selective in their versions of reality. How far should a criminal justice system be alert to these possibilities of error, and how should it respond?

      The answer to the first question is that the values of liberty and justice demand that a very...

    • 11 A Comparative Analysis of Prosecution in Germany and the United Kingdom: Searching for Truth or Getting a Conviction?
      (pp. 213-248)

      The German criminal justice system is based on the inquisitorial tradition of all continental or civil law systems, contrary to the procedure in Anglo-Saxon common-law countries characterized by adversarial principles. The function of the prosecution, its influence on investigations, and its role in pretrial and trial proceedings differ substantially between the two systems. These differences, with regard to the implied risks of miscarriages of justice, are outlined in this chapter. I first outline the German system, followed by a section on the English prosecution service as it developed after recent changes. In the final section, I assess how the two...

    • 12 Wrongful Convictions in France: The Limits of “Pourvoi en Révision”
      (pp. 249-262)

      The French judiciary system, following the continental tradition, provides many detailed rules. Unlike the American system, continental procedural laws insist on the binding character of final decisions. To achieve this, continental systems protect final decisions, by a multitude of formal rules, from being challenged. Such a formalistic framework not only protects final decisions but contributes to the legitimacy of the whole criminal justice system. If so few petitions of revision succeed in France, the reason may be that these rules are so strict that it becomes virtually impossible to obtain a new trial.

      The French judiciary system has two degrees...

    • 13 The Sanctity of Criminal Law: Thoughts and Reflections on Wrongful Conviction in Israel
      (pp. 263-272)

      During the 1980s and the early 1990s the conscience of many of us, in several countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and many others, was shaken by a number of instances that cast doubt on a cherished belief: that innocent people are seldom, if ever, convicted, and they are certainly not executed. Almost as if orchestrated in the way they came to public attention, completely unrelated cases of miscarriages of justice, not in which the guilty were freed but in which the totally innocent were severely punished, became front-page news and the subject of frequent discussion...

    • 14 Wrongful Convictions in Poland: From the Communist Era to the Rechtstaat Experience
      (pp. 273-284)

      Before assessing research on wrongful convictions in modern Poland, some general background information on the country and its criminal justice system may be helpful. Poland is one of the larger countries in central Europe, sharing borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation. With a surface area of 312,683 square kilometers (120,725 square miles) stretching some 650 kilometers (405 miles) from north to south and 690 kilometers (430 miles) from east to west, Poland ranks seventh in size among countries in Europe. The population of Poland is 38.659 million, placing...

  6. Part IV Conclusions
    • 15 Wrongful Conviction: Conclusions from an International Overview
      (pp. 287-300)

      The risk of wrongfully convicting the innocent is not merely a matter of an innocent defendant being confronted with evil, incompetent, or lazy decision makers who place their own interest above the interest of avoiding miscarriages of justice. If eliminating unqualified people from key positions within the criminal justice system remains a permanent and uncontested goal, the fact is that procedural structures can far more easily and permanently be amended than can the morality of individuals. For this reason, this project has been undertaken with the purpose of discovering factors related to procedures and practices in all sectors of criminal...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 301-306)
  8. Index
    (pp. 307-318)