CAUSES AND REMEDIES OF WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS

While in many ways exemplary, Minnesota criminal procedure suffers from correctable flaws. One of these major flaws – identified early on – was the lack of evidence preservation policies, guidelines and statutes.

Biological evidence is among the most reliable evidence, yet it is frequently not preserved. IPMN has advocated for changes to preserve the biological evidence used to identify perpetrators. We have worked with many groups, including prosecutors and police, to make this happen. The result is better access to more evidence.

Our current policy focus is on creating a set of best practices for law enforcement for eyewitness identification procedures. These best practices include:

  • Line-ups which are sequential, double-blind and otherwise arranged to avoid bias;
  • Improved instructions to lineup witnesses; and
  • Statements from witnesses which indicate their confidence in their identification;

There remains more work to be done to prevent and remedy wrongful convictions, and there are a number of ways the criminal justice system can be fine tuned.  Some of these ways require changes in laws; but others are best practices which can be adopted by criminal justice professionals, raised by defense attorneys, and considered by juries.

In many jurisdictions, false confessions are a problem, although in Minnesota this is mitigated by the required audio and videotaping of such confessions.

http://ipmn.org/?page_id=1852

 

Many states are also implementing Criminal Justice Reform Commissions (Innocence Commissions) in light of the large number of exonerations. The CJRCs serve a number of purposes including:

  • Providing safeguards and promoting improvements in the way the criminal justice system works
  • Reviewal of states’ criminal justice systems, drawing attention to the failures which led to wrongful convictions or death sentences
  • Making recommendations and proposals to further ensure the application and administration of a just, fair, and accurate criminal justice system