Even in the American Criminal Justice System Innocent Defendants Risk Being Wrongfully Convicted

By May 29, 2014 April 10th, 2017 blog post

Wrongful Convictions

“The American judicial system is the best in the world.” This statement is frequently made in virtually every courthouse in the United States of America on a daily basis. Although the statement is probably true, the statement is also a sad commentary on a person’s ability to find justice even in the most sophisticated, fair legal system available.

American flag behind barbwireMost people think that because the burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” only defendant’s who are truly guilty are convicted at trial.   The truth of the matter is that since 1973, close to 200 people have been released from death row because, years later and often as they sat on death’s door, they were proven innocent by DNA and other scientific means.

Unfortunately, death penalty cases make up only a minuscule portion of criminal convictions and they are the only cases that really get the attention of high-powered lawyers with the resources to successfully defend clients. If the same attention were paid to other convictions, the number of wrongfully convicted, innocent defendants would be staggering.

Why do you need a lawyer if you’re innocent?

A recent study in Ohio, based on a survey of 188 judges, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs, police chiefs, and 41 state attorneys general, suggests that as many as 10,000 innocent people may be convicted in the United States each and every year.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked as a lawyer is, “if I’m innocent, why do I need a lawyer?” The failures of the judicial system and the plague of innocent people being wrongfully convicted suggests that an aggressive, smart and formidable criminal defense lawyer is indispensable to the wrongfully charged or the over charged defendant.

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