Wrongful Conviction Essays

Wrongful Conviction Essay

Wrongful conviction is an issue that has plagued the Canadian Justice System since it came to be. It is an issue that is hard to sort out between horrific crimes and society’s desire to find truth and justice. Incidences of wrongful conviction hit close to home right here in Saskatchewan as well as across the entire nation. Experts claim “each miscarriage of justice, however, deals a blow to society’s confidence in the legal justice system” (Schmalleger, Volk, 2014, 131). Professionals in the criminal justice field such as police, forensic analyst, and prosecutors must all be held accountable for their implications in wrongful convictions. There are several reasons for wrongful convictions such as racial bias, false confessions, jailhouse informants, eyewitness error, erroneous forensic science, inappropriate, professional and institutional misconduct and scientific limitations that society possessed prior to the technological revolution (Roberts, Grossman, 2012, 253 – 259). The introduction of more advanced DNA analysis has been able to clear names and prevent these incidences from occurring as often. As well as the formation of foundations such as The Association of Defense for the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC). Unfortunately, mistakes made in the Canadian Justice System have serious life altering repercussions for everyone that is involved. Both systematic and personal issues arise that require deeper and more intense analysis.
David Milgaard’s story is one of the most striking and well know representation of wrongful conviction as it happened right here in Saskatoon. Even further than that his case has been called “one of the most famous examples of wrongful conviction in Canada” (CBC News, 2011). In January of 1970, 17-year-old David was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of Gaile Miller. He spent 23 years behind bars and was completely cleared of the murder in 1997 because of further investigation into the DNA evidence. Larry Fisher was later found guilty of the crime in 1999. Had police taken up on a lead on Fisher in 1980, Milgaard could have been released from prison at sooner date.
A report done by CBC news stated “The province of Saskatchewan judicial inquiry, which released a comprehensive 815-page report in September 2008, concluded, "the criminal justice system failed David Milgaard."” (CBC News, 2011). Actions of those in charge of finding justice may in fact have caused the wrongful conviction of Milgaard. Police within the case have been accused of making those in question of Milgaard’s involvement in the murder reveal only what they wanted to hear. Furthermore, the court has been accused of not handling the case effectively as well as during appeals holding bias opinions that the conviction was indeed correct. If not for the persistence of David Milgaard’s mother and her belief in her son’s innocence and without the help of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted (AIDWYK), David may have never made...

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While DNA technology and other advanced forensic techniques are increasingly being relied upon to secure criminal convictions, the justice system seems to be correspondingly reluctant to consider these forms of evidence for the purposes of overturning the convictions of the factually innocent. A confession is arguably the most damaging evidence that can be brought against a defendant in a court of law. Ostensibly, it seems reasonable to assume that one would only confess to a crime that he or she had actually committed. However, in the United States, false confessions may result in nearly 400 wrongful felony convictions annually. The American criminal justice system is based on the concept that wrongs have causes, that such causes are preventable, and that injurious acts warrant recompense to victims as well as punishment for offenders. If the problem is to be addressed and rectified, it must first be understood; not as it is perceived, but as it is.

The relationship between wrongful convictions and legal procedure is not one of simple cause and effect. Rather, this problem represents a dynamic interaction between defendants and observers wherein all parties play an active role. However, the wrongful conviction trend has only been subjectively accepted by the general public to any measurable degree within the past two decades. In conclusion, the introduction of DNA testing to the courtroom has certainly elevated the issue into public discourse. This landmark case initiated the movement which has been responsible for overturning more than 300 convictions to date. Once assumed to be a preposterous notion, 94 percent of recent poll respondents believed that innocent defendants are sometimes executed via the American judicial process. Unfortunately, researchers will likely never know exactly how many innocent defendants have lost their lives, or the better part of them, due to miscarriages of justice.

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