Wrongful Convictions: Is There a Way to Prevent Them?
Within the New York justice system, there have been numerous examples of wrongful convictions where it has become apparent that the wrong person was found guilty of a criminal offense. Wrongful convictions are more common than anyone wants to believe, and wrongful convictions ruin lives when they occur.
Any defendant who has been accused of wrongdoing faces the potential for a guilty verdict and innocence will not necessarily protect the defendant or ensure that an acquittal happens. Because of the serious threat that criminal charges could result in conviction for a crime defendants did not even commit, every defendant needs to find the best Albany criminal defense attorneys to represent him or her and fight for acquittal.
The Risk of Wrongful Conviction in New York
The Times Union recently reported on the high risk of wrongful convictions and the importance of having a good legal defense team to represent anyone who has been accused of a crime. The article noted that numerous high-profile cases have been reported in which people in New York were wrongfully convicted.
One example was the so-called Central Park Five — five youths who were imprisoned in state prison following coerced confessions for the rape and murder of a jogger. The case arose in 1998, but the youths were not cleared by DNA tests until 2002.
In another troubling example, two men were wrongly convicted of a 1997 murder and spent close to two decades in prison until credible evidence surfaced to show the killing had been done by someone else. Even after this evidence came to light, it took another two years before the men were finally released from jail.
These anecdotes are personal examples of a substantial problem within the criminal justice system. The National Registry of Exonerations reveals 1,839 cases in which people have been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted.
These wrongful convictions all happened since 1989 and, in many situations, the people who had been wrongfully convicted served some of their sentence on death row. The defendants who were wrongfully convicted were also disproportionately minorities.
In many cases, the wrongfully convicted were found guilty, in part, because of false confessions that they felt they had no choice but to give. Some defendants were even threatened with the death penalty, so they agreed to admit guilt in an effort to get prosecutors to take death off the table. Please note, however, that this is no longer an issue in New York now that the death penalty is no longer used in the state.
Coerced confessions also came from lengthy and aggressive questioning without an attorney being present. One recent case revealed that harsh interrogation techniques are common within the Albany Police Department — even during the year when the department was recognized as a model law enforcement agency.
The Times Union article indicates that one factor in these wrongful conviction cases is attorney representation. Defendants need skilled criminal defense lawyers who are not overwhelmed, overworked or inexperienced.
Defendants should have an attorney who can provide the focused attention their case deserves and who has the experience necessary to help present successful defenses that maximize the chances of introducing reasonable doubt and securing an acquittal. Contact The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC today to get help with your case.