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Wrongful Convictions Archives

Bad forensic evidence convicted him. Now he's out on parole.

Joe Bryan has not been exonerated, but there is good reason to believe he was wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife, Mickey. Bryan was convicted twice despite having been at a conference 120 miles away at the time of the murder. He has served 33 years in prison.

Mistaken eyewitness IDs occurred in nearly 70% of exonerations

According to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, evidence from eyewitnesses is "a unique threat to the fairness of trial." She cited research that found eyewitness misidentifications to be the "single greatest cause" of wrongful convictions in the United States.

'Perfect storm' of injustice overturned in wrongful conviction

"Theophalis Wilson, you are free to go," said a Philadelphia judge recently. She was releasing a man who has been exonerated of the three 1989 killings he was convicted of as a teenager.

What should prosecutors do when they know an officer lies?

It's a controversial subject, but we live in a harsh world. Some police officers lie. Some have a documented history of misconduct, including lying or other acts that call their truthfulness into question. If they do, this history should be available to the defense so that the officer's credibility can be tested in court.

Wisconsin woman says she was railroaded into arson conviction

In February 2013, a house in the small town of Quincy, Wisconsin, burned nearly to the ground. Its owner was Brenda Jones, a 51-year-old woman with cancer. She was legally disabled and disability insurance was her only source of income. She wasn't home at the time of the fire, which was electrical in origin.

Genetic genealogy database leads to exoneration of Idaho man

We've discussed on this blog how genealogy databases like GEDmatch warehouse the DNA results of huge numbers of people who have taken part in genetic testing for genealogy purposes.

2018's exonerees lost 1,639 years to wrongful convictions

According to the National Registry of Exonerations' annual report, 151 people were exonerated in the U.S. in 2018. Together, they spent 1,639 years behind bars for crimes they didn't commit -- an average of about 11 years each.

SCOTUS: Can prosecutors withhold evidence before guilty pleas?

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland that police and prosecutors are legally bound to turn over so-called "exculpatory" evidence to the defense before trial. Exculpatory evidence is most anything favorable to the defense. It can be evidence that the defendant is innocent, that someone else could be guilty, or that there were mitigating circumstances. Or, it can cast doubt on the reliability of prosecution witnesses.

When will we see reforms in forensic evidence?

"Some experts extrapolate far beyond what can be supported," reads a 2009 National Academy of Sciences report about bloodstain pattern analysis. It adds, "The uncertainties associated with bloodstain-pattern analysis are enormous."

Why should sentences after trials be longer than pled sentences?

In the criminal justice world, there is something we refer to as the "trial penalty." It is a penalty, in the form of a harsher sentence, for anyone who demands a trial and is then found guilty. In almost every case, defendants convicted at trial are sentenced to far longer than people who accept plea bargains.

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