“Everyone makes mistakes” may be a comforting response to some situations. When a goalie lets a shot get by, when a child loses their mittens on the way home from school or maybe when a spouse says something they want to take back, a loved one might reassure them with those three words.
Mistakes are certainly not okay in other situations, like when a defendant’s freedom is on the line. No one should ever be convicted of a crime that they didn’t commit, and yet, the 87 exonerations recorded by the National Registry of Exonerations in 2013 is evidence enough that this has happened before.
Technology used in forensic testing has come a long way over the past several decades, and it has helped exonerate many wrongfully convicted individuals using DNA evidence. Exonerations based on DNA-evidence have begun to decrease, however. This past year, of the 87 reported exonerations 69 of them were considered non-DNA cases. In 2012, that number was 59.
Two thirds of the cases reported in 2013 involved perjury or false accusations. Other reasons for a wrongful conviction were official misconduct, mistaken eyewitness identification, guilty pleas and even cases involving a crime that wasn’t committed at all. This last type of case most often involved drug offenses.
Without the details, we cannot speak to the exact cases, but the consequences mentioned above can often be prevented by the counsel of a strong defense attorney. Even a defendant that knows they are innocent will have to prove their case.
An attorney with thorough knowledge of the laws in Virginia and extensive experience successfully handling criminal defense matters is someone that those accused of a crime should have on their side.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Criminal Exonerations at All-Time High,” Jacob Gershman, Feb. 4, 2014