Innocence

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Read through these links on innocence projects, and then move on to the Perfect Evidence show.

Many states have 'innocence projects' which assist in exonerating people who have been wrongfully convicted. The original one is here: http://www.innocenceproject.org/

Their Mission: The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

Other innocence projects are here: http://www.psychologicalscience.com/psylaw/2012/08/innocence-projects.html

 

Listen to the show Perfect Evidence from This American Life

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/210/perfect-evidence (below is a summary):

After a decade in which DNA evidence has freed over 100 people nationwide, it's become clear that DNA evidence isn't just proving wrongdoing by criminals, it's proving wrongdoing by police and prosecutors. In this show, we look at what DNA has revealed to us: how police get innocent people to confess to crimes they didn't commit and how they get witnesses to pin crimes on innocent people. There have always been suspicions that these kinds of things take place. With DNA, there's finally irrefutable proof.

What are your thoughts innocence and the sheer numbers of innocent people who may be in prison? What is the difference between actual innocence and plain ol' innocence? Why is DNA so important? What about the cases that have no DNA? What does that mean for people's innocence and ability to prove it?

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I found the Innocence Project’s website really interesting. I read about a few on the main website, and I also checked out the Midwest site too. Reading about these case files was definitely an eye-opener for me, because I really used to think there weren’t innocent people in prison. I seemed to think our justice system was basically foolproof, which definitely isn’t true. After reading these stories, it helped me to realize that at any given point in time, all over the country, there are people sitting in jail cells, serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.

This is why DNA is so important. When you think about it, proving innocence is pretty much impossible without it. When a criminal is convicted, the justice system is saying that they believe he or she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Without DNA, proving someone’s innocence would mean re-investigating a crime to try to find that “reasonable doubt” that was lacking before. This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. And most of the time, judges won’t even look at the case, even if the evidence is there. However, because DNA is something that does not lie and can’t really be argued against, it’s basically the only real way to prove innocence. Even when there is so much other damning evidence, DNA can literally make or break a case. Because of this, I can understand why the Innocence Project can only accept cases where DNA is involved.

I used to really wonder - how can someone be wrongfully convicted when there’s DNA involved? After reading the case files on the Innocence Project’s website, and also listening to the NPR story, I noticed that a lot of times, DNA evidence was disregarded. Also, a lot of the wrongful conviction had to do with either false confessions, eyewitnesses, police misconduct, or a combination of the three.

A false confession occurred in the story of Johnny Wilson (Midwest Innocence Project’s website). Because of his mental retardation, the police’s repeated intense interrogations broke him down. Eventually he falsely confessed to the crime, spending eight years in prison before he was pardoned. This shows how psychologically stressful these interrogations are, and with a lower IQ, Wilson did not fully understand his situation.

An example of a faulty eyewitness can be seen on the Innocence Project’s website, involving Bennett Barbour. A rape victim picked him out of three line-ups, two of which were live. Because of this, he was charged. There was no physical evidence against him, but the jury still seemed to believe that the eyewitness’ identification was foolproof. He was freed after DNA evidence proved his innocence. This shows that eyewitness identification is not always accurate.

Lastly, we see police misconduct in the “This American Life” story about three young men wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering a young med student, Lori Roscetti. During interrogations, the police bullied the boys, and even tricked one of them into signing a confession by promising him he could go home. They also pressured a man named Omar to testify against them as an eyewitness. When he refused, they arrested him and charged him.

Reading about these helped me to understand why people get wrongfully convicted. It also makes me wonder just how many people are sitting in prison right now, victim to the things discussed above, that are actually innocent.

Besides freeing innocent people, there’s also another benefit of the Innocence Project. This has shown judges just how many people are being wrongfully convicted. Because of this, they’re more likely to look over old cases, even ones without DNA. Even though proving innocence in these cases is still very difficult, it’s a step forward that judges will even take the time to look at them.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss profiling. I feel like sometimes this may play a role in wrongful convictions. Many juries may assume that since the defendant matches the profile the detectives had drawn up, he or she must be guilty. I feel like jurors should take evidence like this less seriously than hard evidence. It’s things like that that lead to wrongful convictions.

When checking out the different links on the original Innocence Project website, the link that got my attention first was entitled “Understand the Causes”, and I wanted to read more about this because if you want to get a good understanding of what the Innocence Project is, then you need to know how innocent people end up in prison in the first place. I knew this would apply to many different things we have discussed in class so I went ahead and explored it a little bit. I first clicked on the “Eyewitness Misidentification” and we all know that this is something that has played a very large role in everything we have been learning about so far in this class. This link goes on to explain that eyewitness misidentification is the largest cause of wrongful conviction in this country and that it plays a role in 75% of convictions overturned by DNA evidence. It then goes on to discuss how it is very easy for people to believe a witness’ account because they usually get emotional and seem very confident in what they are saying, yet social science research over the years has proven that eyewitness identification is actually quite unreliable. This correlates with what we have learned in class on the topic. I then went on to read the “False Confessions/Admissions” information. They mainly discuss that decent number of people who make confessions or admit guilt do not do so because they are guilty, but do so because of pressure from external influences. Once again, this matches very well with what we have learned about confessions in this class. The last cause that I read about was under the “Unreliable or Improper Forensic Science” link. This is another topic that was discussed in the book briefly, and the website says that DNA has been helping exonerate innocent people and identify the guilty since the late 1980’s. Innocent people are sometimes put in prison because the forensics were not handled properly and therefore the wrong person is connected with the crime. Even with such an amazing resource such as DNA evidence, there are still some people out there who will mishandle the evidence or purposefully contaminate it in order to get the conviction they want.

I then went on to explore the “Know the Cases” link that holds the stories of all the different people who have been exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project. I couldn’t believe how long some of these people were in prison. Thankfully, some were in for a short period of time (depending on your opinion of “short”), but a lot were in for at least 10 years. That is a heck of a long time to be serving a prison sentence for something you didn’t do. Any time at all is ridiculous, but to think that a lot of these people were spending 10+ years in prison makes me sick, and it is still happening today. Even one person serving a sentence for something they didn’t do is a failure in my mind. There is no reason for it. I also found it very interesting to read some of the individual stories that were posted on here. I saw examples where the reason they were convicted was due to either eyewitness misidentification or false confessions. The stories matched what we read about in our textbook perfectly. Everything that happened to the people in the stories I ready was mentioned in our book.

After checking out the Innocence Project website, I went on to the Perfect Evidence show. Once I listened to this, I felt better able to answer the following questions:

What are your thoughts on innocence and the sheer numbers of innocent people who may be in prison?: I feel that innocence is something that cannot be taken away from you, and the fact that it literally can be taken from a human being is sickening. When I think about the number of innocent people serving sentences in prison right now, I get angry. I understand that mistakes happen, but when it’s someone’s life on the line I think that a little more care should be taken in order to assure that only guilty people are spending their lives in prison. That is what prison is for. It’s not a place for innocent people to rot away simply because there is extremely unreliable “evidence” against them. This really makes me feel like our justice system goes for quantity over quality in these situations. No one would ever admit that, but just getting the conviction is more important to some individuals than the defendant’s life. This is always an issue in my mind, but it’s especially alarming when the defendant is really innocent.
What is the difference between actual innocence and plain ol’ innocence?: When thinking about this question, the answer that comes to mind is simple. Actual innocence applies when an individual is being accused of something that they did not do. Plain ol’ innocence is when someone is innocent of something but they are not being accused of it. I think there is a very big difference between the two and if someone did not commit a crime, then they should always be plain ol’ innocent. No one should have to deny guilt and prove their innocence whey THEY ARE INNOCENT. The fact that they are innocent should be enough.
Why is DNA so important?: DNA is so important simply because it is something that can 100% rule someone out as a suspect or the perpetrator in a crime. If their DNA was not found at the scene, it is impossible that they could have committed the crime. This is how a lot of people get exonerated. Their DNA is nowhere to be found at the crime scene, and they get a simple “I’m sorry” and get sent on their merry way. It’s amazing to me that something as seemingly simple as this is able to completely eliminate people from a crime, but it is the best thing that could happen for innocent people in prison.
What about cases that have no DNA and what does that mean for people’s innocence and their ability to prove it?: Cases like this are unfortunate. It is a million times harder to prove innocence when there is no DNA to rule the person out. Their ability to rule themselves out is hindered greatly and a lot more work must be done. It’s true that people in situations like this may never have the chance to prove their innocence and may be executed because of this. For many different reasons, a lot of the innocent people who have been executed over the years more than likely have had cases like this where there was no DNA evidence to help them. I would definitely not say there is not chance for cases without DNA evidence, but the chances of exoneration decrease heavily.

I have been looking forward to learning more about the innocence projects since they first came up early in the semester. After learning about all the ways cops, witnesses, experts, and many other factors can influence a jury and lead to wrongful conviction, I began to doubt the efficiency of our criminal justice system. It is kind of frightening to think that innocent people are sentenced to prison, which does not seem like a very fun place to hang out. I think it’s really cool (is it acceptable to say that something is cool in a blog?) that there are organizations working to exonerate innocent people.
A common theme in the radio story we listened to was that DNA has really caused a huge change in the legal system. It strengthens many cases and helps put criminals behind bars. More recently, it has also helped free those who had been incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. When DNA testing began to make its way into the realm of criminal justice, investigators were able to close many open case, even those that had gone cold over the years. DNA testing has evolved from matching blood types of suspects and evidence to the way we know it today. This growth is an attribute.
On the Innocence project site, witness misidentification, false confessions, bad lawyers, improper forensics, and snitches are cited as the most common causes of wrongful convictions. DNA testing through the Innocence Project acts a safety net for those cases that fall through the cracks and result in sending innocent people prison. There have been 306 exonerations in the time since the project started and 2010 (when the website was last updated). The Innocence Project of Iowa was started in 2007 and is the only project dedicated solely to the state and the state court system. The website phrases it as “ensuring the integrity of the Iowa criminal justice system.” I think the most interesting this about these organizations is that they run on donations and volunteers who are willing to dedicate their time to helping right the wrongs created by the system that is supposed to be doing just that.
Getting back the radio show assigned for this blog, I thought all of the stories were really captivating. Here are three boys, not just one, who were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit rotting in prison for 15 years before anyone was able to help them prove they were innocent. The police in the area of the crime were pressured by the community to find suspects. Whether they actually believed the boys were guilty of rape and murder was beside the point once they were able to convince the boys to confess. It took hours of volunteer work and many thousands of dollars to be poured into the case for the boys, now men, to be exonerated. By the time they were released, they had missed out on so much. The Innocence Project is such an interesting, but albeit useful, organization that has been created .

Terms: DNA testing, exoneration, prison, wrongful conviction, witnesses, expert testimony, cold cases,

Innocence

“Innocence does not find near so much protection as guilt.”

- Francois de La Rochefoucauld

What are your thoughts innocence and the sheer numbers of innocent people who may be in prison?

The mere thought of the hundreds possibly thousands of innocent people that are in prison right now that could exonerated by DNA is just horrifying and it makes me just sick to my stomach. I just can’t understand how this can happen in this day in age but then I have to realize that crimes that were committed in the past are up against the crimes being committed on a daily basis and that number just keeps rising and rising while the old cases just keep getting stacked and stacked further behind a very long and expensive line for DNA testing. The numbers of innocent people that have already been exonerated which is on the home page of the innocence project website is 306 as of April 24, 2013. And according to the website they review somewhere over 3,000 letters a year and at any time there could be 6,000-8,000 cases that need to be reviewed.

I can only feel pain and anguish for the innocent people that have had to spend any amount of time incarcerated. The worst part of that is there are probably hundreds maybe even thousands of innocent people who don’t have the resources or help to continue fighting the system to prove their innocence. According to the project innocence website, if just 1% of all prisoners are innocent, that would mean that more than 20,000 innocent people are in prison. That was so shocking to read and to for me is just unacceptable. Then there are the cases that do not have DNA evidence and helping them is even more difficult that with DNA evidence.

What is the difference between actual innocence and plain ol' innocence?

When I first read that question I thought “well, there is no difference, really?” Then, I thought well, I am not sure if there is a difference between the two or there shouldn’t be. So to better under the concept I looked it up and I just didn’t want a wiki definition, either. Actual innocence is defined as “the absence of facts required for conviction under a criminal statute and is a widely used defense to crime. Defendants often claim actual innocence when appealing criminal convictions. To prove actual innocence, the defendant must submit additional evidence that undermines the court's confidence in earlier verdict reached. Appellate rules normally require that this evidence must not have been available to the defendant at the time of the trial” and that comes from USlegal.com (which is a legal destination site for consumers, small business, attorneys, corporations, and anyone interested in the law, or in need of legal information, products or services). Once I read all that then I really understood the concept actual innocence and plain ol’ innocence. Learning new terms whether legal or psychological is always interesting and I definitely can appreciate discovering a new website where if I had a legal question I can refer to and to think it was all because of this question.

Why is DNA so important?

In criminal investigation or forensics DNA can be anything biological: blood, semen/sperm, hair,
tissue, bones, organs, tooth pulp, bodily secretions, saliva, sweat, urine, and fingernails. DNA evidence is extremely important and incredibly valuable when it comes to catching criminals and in many cases, for identifying victims as well. Because technology improves (and DNA is analyzed more quickly), and the existing technology is used in more places across the nation, DNA evidence will continue to play a larger role in overturning wrongful convictions. Another really big aspect when it comes to DNA and the way DNA evidence is collected, preserved, and tested is extremely critical to the success of its use in criminal cases now and especially to older cases even before DNA was an option.

What about the cases that have no DNA?

I think that has to be the most difficult and frustrating concepts when it comes to proving a wrongful conviction but it has been done. According to the innocence project there are six cases, which I thought was an extremely low number so I kept researching. One study, the “Study on Wrongful Convictions Raises Questions Beyond DNA,” New York Times, July 23, 2007 suggests that for every DNA exoneree, there are hundreds if not over a thousand wrongfully convicted defendants whose cases do not contain biological evidence that could prove innocence. Now, after reading that article, I was shocked beyond belief.

What does that mean for people's innocence and ability to prove it?

I really believe it definitely has changed my perspective a lot when it comes to the innocence of people in prison. I definitely think there needs to be a reform in our judicial system when it comes to testing DNA evidence. Maybe even establishing a national task force to completely focus on helping people who have real evidence and/or claim innocent. I know that when I began this blog, after I had reviewed the website, the stories, actual numbers per state and heard the radio show I have to admit that I felt totally helpless and I couldn’t think of a single way to make a difference in this subject or for the innocence project.

My only thought was to volunteer, give or donate to a cause that I now felt very passionate about. When saw that most volunteer work is done out New York and the Innocence Project in Iowa was also too far. I decided to donate and I saw the link about donations and matching gifts with employers already involved. It was only $25 bucks but because I linked it to my husband’s employer who then doubled it, I felt like if that was a definitely a start. I am proud to say I am now a supporter of the Innocence project.

"You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free."
~ Clarence Darrow

Terms: Innocence, DNA, prison, incarcerated, crimes, testing, statute, prisoners, evidence, wrongful convictions, facts, defendants, attorneys, appealing, verdict, guilt, courts, judicial system, appellate rules, law, legal, criminal investigations, tissue, fingerprints, salvia, etc…, cases, convicted, liberties and biological evidence.

One thing that I found really interesting from the radio show is that there are so, so many letters from prisoners claiming that DNA could prove their innocence, even ones that still end up being guilty. Also, that one of the largest DNA testing business now receives most of its work from going through old case files. It is mind-boggling that so many people have been or could have been wrongly convicted. The stories from the radio show were really striking and interesting, hearing straight from the actual people who have had this injustice done to them. According to the Innocence Project website 306 people have been exonerated and out of jail. These people lost many years, sometimes half of their lives, in prison for things they did not do and for confessions that they were coerced into giving. Someone can also end up in prison if they are innocent from faulty police work or forensic misconduct, which is something that many people do not think about when someone is found guilty and sent to jail. When I visited the Innocence Project of Iowa webpage I was glad there was a lot of information. It turns out that they have a lot of criteria for an inmate to meet and are very selective about the cases they take on. On the actual Innocence Project website I was glad to see a link to get to know the cases and the ability to browse them. I noticed the Conviction movie link and watched the short video, I remember seeing advertisements for the movie a year or so ago. It is amazing that someone went back to school and worked for twenty years to prove her brother’s innocence, it would be so hard to keep up hope during that time.
Everyone in prison claims they are innocent, as we saw in Shawshank Redemption. A lot of people say that and a lot of people believe that about themselves even if it is not true. Actual innocence is innocence that can be proven. If there was DNA, paperwork, recordings, or anything that can help an inmate prove their innocence it may mean they actual are innocent – and their case might be looked at. These projects have to do a lot of work and spend a lot of their own time and money to help these inmates become exonerated, so they only want to work on cases where there is real innocence that can be proven. DNA is so important to these cases, especially when it is fully preserved, so that it can scientifically prove whether someone committed the crime or not. It can also be checked to see if the DNA is contaminated, leading to a false imprisonment. DNA is the best evidence, matching it to prove they were guilty or not matching it to prove they are innocent and possibly finding the real perpetrator. It is hard for some people to claim their innocence and for it to be proven when there is no preserved DNA or there was no DNA available in the first place, it is the best physical evidence that can still be tested on years later and comes in many different forms. If there is absolutely no DNA then it will be really hard for people to prove their innocence. It may mean that those people who truly are innocent will not be able to get out; there is no way to prove it. Sometimes, though, there are recordings or paper trails and files that show police mistakes or other forensic misconduct that can lead to their exoneration, though it will be a much more difficult task.

Their Mission: The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

I was glad to hear that because of the discovery of DNA evidence, different cases were being looked over again and again. Even those cases that did not have DNA involved were willing to look over the case again because of all the evidence of how wrong they have been in the past. I was also glad to read on The Innocence Project web page, that over 300 cases have been exonerated due to DNA evidence.
I was still surprised to hear that the police beat a confession out of a boy. I mean he was just a boy. And then to top it all off, they told him he could leave to see his mother if he only signed a confession, but of course that was not their intent. They threw him and two other boys behind bars instead of what they had “promised.” And fifteen years later the true rapists and killers were caught, they finally came forward with the truth. It is sad and unbelievable. The original profilers were so off it just made me angry. There were two offenders not four. The crime took place in a different location. They were adults, not teens and they did not rob her because they needed the money. They even tried to make people say/believe they were witnesses to a crime. Listening to this, I just could not believe my ears. What they did to prove they were right, even though they knew they were wrong. It just made me upset for those boys. These boys were sentenced to life because of this crime, and would have been given the death penalty if they were not so young. It was so sad.
They spent time in a federal prison, fifteen years in a federal prison, with real convicts. They were young, scared boys locked up with real bad men. They said that they had become “new prey.” I just feel so sad and scared for them and their lives in there. I am so glad that I know in the end they got out, but it’s still not enough. While in prison, they kept up with studies and tried to keep themselves busy, so not to become industrialized. When they talk about how they felt like they were sleeping in a bathroom, because the toilet is just right there next to the bed in their cell, it just made me sad to think: “This is how they had to live their lives, when they have done nothing wrong. That’s just not right.”
It is funny when I think back to the movie we watched, Shawshank Redemption, how everyone walked around saying they were innocent. That is what the boys described their prison to be like too. But they said it was easy to tell who was telling the truth about being innocent and who lied. They talked about how they had a certain walk, a certain attitude like they were free. That also reminded me of how Red always said that Andy had a walk and air about him, like he was strolling through the park, also like how he was free.
This hit on many things we have talked about throughout the semester. DNA evidence, criminal profiling, confessions, plea deals, death penalty, prison. But the more and more I listened. The more upset I got about how these innocent boys were in there. Thank goodness for The Innocence Project and the discovery of DNA evidence. Those boys were set free, but only after they had turned into men.

The purpose of the websites is to help exonerate people from prison, through the use of DNA evidence.
In the audio-episode, it reviewed some of the cases of people who have been released from prison because of these programs. DNA evidence is the most common way to overturn someone’s conviction, but if there is no DNA involved in the case, it still brings along hope and gives other people a chance to try and prove their innocence for a second time. DNA evidence has helped overturn convictions from many years ago, and have also helped find the real person who is guilty.
In act one, it talked about a women who had been raped and murdered in Chicago. She was a medical student and was white. This caused the public to jump to faster conclusions, and found a black male who had prior arrest who was near the crime scene. After the first male did not give the police any confession, and then the next two suspects were told they could be released if they gave a confession, so without any knowledge of what they were doing, they admitted to the crime. The state did not have a lot of evidence or even a real profile for the case. The boys went to trial without even understanding what they were being tried for, and the police officer made up a story that was untrue. They even made one boy witness the other boys doing the crime. After the boys were tried and convicted, they were sentenced to prison. However, some people later found the real criminals, and found that the boys were innocent. This is just one example of how police officers and prosecutors can almost make anyone appear guilty even if they don’t have significant evidence, and how DNA evidence can help prove ones innocence.

In act two, a boy was convicted of a crime he did not do. He was only 14 years old and he was accused of murdering his sister. Without any violence or torture during the interrogation they were able to force the boy to admitting and confessing to the crime. They used a lie-detector, and concluded that he was guilty. However, they asked him questions that they knew they would get a “lying” response on the detector. They also made up witnesses and false evidence to get him to confess that he committed the crime. Later on however, they found through DNA evidence that he was innocent. Even though they were not doing interrogations techniques that could be considered “illegal”, they did cause the boy to say he was innocent when he was guilty.

These sites and the audio overall showed me how even though these people can be released from prison because of DNA evidence, or other evidence later, they also are charged with a crime they did not do in the first place. All of these people that were convicted in this audio all gave confessions to crimes they did not do. They were lied to, uneducated about the interrogation process, and some even believed they were guilty of the crime. This shows how in the criminal justice system we can never be sure if someone is 100% guilty. There needs to be more evidence when convicting criminals, and a more fair interrogation process. Even though these people can often be released through the use of DNA evidence, we need to be focusing more on preventative strategies to stop these people from ending up in prison in the first time. All in all, these programs and websites are great tools to help locate and release those people who are falsely accused of a crime from prison.

Key Words: interrogation, guilty, innocent, DNA evidence, lie detector, witnesses, confessions, evidence, suspects

When you think about people in prison you assume that they are all guilty. Unfortunately that is not the case, people are incarcerated for years even though they are innocent of the crimes they have been accused of. DNA testing now is a more accurate method to make sure that people do not end up in prisons that don’t belong there. Going back through old cases is where they find how far evidence has come from just eyewitness testimonies to DNA tests. It is unnerving how many innocent people are serving time in prison for something that they didn’t even do.

Innocence projects try and prevent wrongful convictions, they do so by investigating cases of people who are wrongly convicted, policy improvement, and education. These programs are helping not only the innocent in prison, but are helping our justice system do its job correctly.

75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing were result of eyewitness misidentification (Innocence Project). Fastest part of the growing DNA business is old cases that people want to be proven innocent by DNA testing. Even in cases where there is no DNA evidence, because of DNA they are willing to go back and take a look at the cases because of the fact that it has been proven mistakes can be made. Not only eyewitnesses make mistakes that lead to wrongful convictions, there is misconduct done by police officers. They convince people that they are guilty even though they did not commit the crime. This is what is crazy to me because the justice system is so corrupt and they just want a suspect to bring ease to the public. Pre-trial media can also have an impact on people being wrongly convicted because too much of what people THINK happened seeps into the news. Educated guesses should not be the reason why someone is incarcerated.

It was also shocking that innocent people like you and me are living in prison with people who are actually criminals. The whole environment of prison is scary enough as it is, but to be in prison and people think you are guilty for rape, like in the radio show story, they want to attack and kill you.

DNA has made a big difference in cases today and helping people not get wrongly convicted, if there is DNA at the scene. Law enforcement can lie to get what they want; they just want a face to the crime so that people can sleep at night. They profile suspects and then once they get an educated guess on who the suspect is they bring him in and make them confess to crimes they did not commit. The people that are exonerated are trying to catch up in society for the time they lost when they were in prison. They do not have job history, and new things have been created by the time they get out. Everything is fast pace and they are slow to adjusting. You can never give people back their time.

Cases where DNA evidence is not present or not available they are able to somewhat help them based on strong evidence of innocence in biological evidence. In other cases DNA needs to be paired with other forms of evidence to make them innocent. Only 5-10% of all criminal cases DNA is present and can be tested. That is why the Innocence Project is taking on other cases besides just DNA cases. They believe more goes into proving someone is innocent other than DNA. In the radio show it was shown that cops could get someone to admit to a crime they didn’t commit. They are scared and they are lied to and made to believe that they committed a crime based on evidence that was not even there.

The Innocence Project is looking to provide assistance after release of people exonerated. They are trying to pass compensation laws in all states to help people for the time they have lost. They want to provide education, health service, and job training. These are basic human activities if they would have been out in the real world and not in prison for being wrongly convicted. George Bush recommended $50,000 per year for wrongful incarceration (Innocence Project).

Innocence is something that is blameless you have a lack of guilt to a crime with evidence that was not present of readily available at the time of trial (US legal). Claiming you are innocent does not do the trick, there needs to be evidence to back up that claim legally, but everyone is entitled to a fair trial.

I had heard of the innocence project through reading the book Picking Cotton. It was very interesting to go on to the actual website and look at the different topics available. I noticed many of the reasons that these men were wrongly convicted were due to reasons we had discussed previously in class. For example, we had a whole chapter and discussion on eyewitness testimonies. That was a link on the site and was listed as one of the causes of wrongful convictions. Another topic discussed in class and included on this site as a cause was the idea of false confessions. I read through a variety of different cases involving those who were wrongly convicted and then exonerated through DNA evidence. When reading those stories involving false confessions, it lined up almost perfectly with the chapter in the textbook on this topic. Many of the individuals were coerced and badgered until they confessed. Some of them were blackmailed and one man was only given water the entire day he spent being interrogated.


Also briefly discussed in class was the idea of forensic science. We had said that the physical evidence of a crime goes through many hands and many people in the system. Each pair of hands has to be extremely cautious with the evidence or it may end up being contaminated and non-useful. I read multiple stories of men who had been wrongly convicted, and when they finally applied to the Innocence Project to get the DNA tested, many times it came back inconclusive or someone said it was destroyed. Something I was surprised to read as one of the causes, however, was bad lawyering. I believe we had touched on this topic only briefly during the discussion of the “mock trial” that went on in class. However, I didn’t realize this could be a sole reason for an individual being wrongly convicted. This surprised and upset me.


Overall, I really liked the website and was interested in reading the stories of those who were finally set free. Psychologically, we can guess that many of these men may have trouble adapting to life on the outside world. Just as was depicted in The Shawshank Redemption, many of those men had been “institutionalized.” I believe one of the men was in prison for 34 years or more before he was finally released. I can’t imagine what that would do to your mind, especially if you are innocent and know you’re innocent. I would assume that many of those set free were set free with some mental problems as a result of prison life. Research shows, through the Stanford Prison Experiment, that being a prisoner can have a huge detrimental effect on your mental health.


Listening to the radio program was also really interesting and we can see the different topics we’ve discussed in class evident throughout the program. First of all, it was shocking to hear that they have thousands and thousands of letters stacked up that haven’t even been read yet! This really puts the point across that so many people could be helping with this project. I was also kind of surprised that they said that half of the time the DNA tests prove that the prisoner is, in fact, guilty; most likely, the prisoner already knew this so, many times, time is wasted on already guilty individuals and those who are innocent stay in prison longer because their case isn’t being heard. It makes me wonder why somebody who is guilty would waste their time or want the innocence project to test the DNA. What’s the point of doing that? Just to rebel against the system and punish innocent others? Another item that surprised me within the introduction of the program was that Illinois has the largest number of overturned convictions. It seems so close to home since it is a neighboring state in the Midwest! It makes one wonder what Illinois is doing wrong or different to send all these innocent people to prison. I was also pleased to hear that in cases where there is no DNA evidence, prosecutors and lawyers are still wanting to go back and see if it’s possible that someone was wrongly convicted. This gives the system hope in decreasing the number of people who are wrongly convicted.


Something I noticed in act one was the idea of racism. This is strongly discussed throughout our textbook and we see in act one that the story involves a white victim and black defendants. The race of the people involved may have impacted the likelihood of conviction. In addition, even though the physical evidence wasn’t strong, the fact that Calvin confessed was huge. We know from our textbook that jurors place a huge weight on a confession; not only jurors, but the rest of society as well. I was shocked to hear that all the details that got out through the media were actually false; it makes me question the things we hear in our local/national news in terms of details on crimes. What do we believe and what shouldn’t we? Also within act one, we can see relevance to harsh prison life. Many of the men were attacked because they were seen as rapists. There was also a discussion during this section of the program where the men described how they could tell innocent people apart from those who claimed they were innocent. Those who were actually innocent seemed to act like they were free instead of acting like they were in prison.


Act two also dealt with a confession and we can see how relevant this is to our textbook chapter regarding interrogations. Just as we’ve already discovered, the police lied to Michael about evidence. Michael came to actually believe he committed the gruesome crime of killing his sister. One thing that really surprised me in this section was the fact that police try to keep parents out of the interrogation room. They will even go so far as to tell a lie to keep them out. In addition, something else we’ve talked about previously was lie detection. The police in Michael’s case used a fraudulent lie detection test called a computer voice stress analyzer. Research has proven this doesn’t actually work; it’s main purpose is to intimidate someone into confessing.


It’s insane that many innocent people have gone to prison, are in prison, and will go to prison for a crime they never committed. As we recognize the causes of wrongful convictions we can begin to decrease this number. DNA is extremely important because it has the power to overturn a conviction and set someone free; it also has the power to put the real perpetrator in prison where they belong. In cases where there is no DNA evidence, it’s hard to prove innocence. That is why most of those cases in which someone has been exonerated have dealt with sex crimes. However, we heard in the program that many people are starting to look back through old cases even though DNA evidence is not available.




When I first initially started reading about the innocence project, I can honestly say that I got a little angry. The reason that I was angry was for a couple of reasons. The first reason that I was angry was the amount of people that were sentenced to prison who were innocent. The second reason was that I read a story on the website about how a prosecutor was now facing charges of withholding evidence in a case that would have set the man being charged free. The amount of people that have been released from prison is very large. However, I believe that the actual number of innocent people in prison is much larger. The reason that I believe that it is much larger is because of the fact that the innocent projects around the United States can only put so many resources into so many cases. I believe that if they were given more money that they would be able to prove that there is a lot more people in prison than what we actually think. The reason that I believe that is because of the fact that in a lot of the cases that the innocent project works on, the people are eventually proven not guilty of the crimes that they have committed. The fact that there might be an actual large number of people who are in prison who are innocent is astounding. The reason that it is astounding is because of the fact that you would think that because the goal of our criminal justice system is to put people behind bars that we would actually put the right people behind bars. However, it seems after looking through a lot of the cases on the website and other places, it seems that maybe our criminal justice system just wants to find someone for the crime and that because of the fact that the prosecution doesn’t want to say that they are wrong, they will wrongfully convict someone of crimes that they didn’t commit. The thing that I thought of was the thing that we talked about in class about how once the prosecution has made it up in its mind that this is they guy, they will ignore all information pointing to someone else. The reason that I found this interesting was the fact that it actually has turned out to be true in a lot of different cases that I have looked at on the websites. This to me shows that there is a real problem with our justice system. The reason that there is a problem is the fact that we are putting innocent people behind bars and that the prosecution really doesn’t care about whether or not they are putting an innocent man in prison. They actually care more about putting someone behind bars for the crimes that were committed, even if it turns out to be the wrong person they are putting behind bars. My thoughts on innocence are that I believe that if you didn’t commit the crime and that you are charged with the crime that you should be released. However, we have seen how this is not the case in a lot of different scenarios. In a lot of cases, I believe that the prosecution thinks that if I put this person behind bars, then it can make my case load look better. I also believe that the prosecution thinks that there is no way that this person will ever be proven innocent so they can spend the rest of their life in prison. The thing about it is that the prosecution is human, if they admit to making a mistake it looks really bad on them, however, I think it looks worse on them if 25 years later they were found to be withholding evidence that would put a wrongfully convicted man in prison. The difference between innocence and plain old innocence is the fact that innocence is the fact that the person actually didn’t commit the crime that they were accused of. Old innocence, or as the website put it, ol’innocence is the fact that a person is found innocence because of the fact that there was not enough material evidence against that person to convict them and therefore they were let go, even if they had actually committed the crimes that they were charged with. The reason that DNA is so important is the fact that it is the sole reason why so many of the wrongfully convicted who had been sentenced to jail were getting released. It is the number one method of proving whether or not someone is actually innocent or not. The problem with it is what happens when there is contamination of the evidence by the prosecution and what if there is no DNA evidence at all at the scene of the crime. These are some of the problems with DNA evidence. In cases that have no DNA evidence, the prosecution usually relies on eyewitness testimony as well as other things to prove that a person is guilty. The problem with this is the fact that the prosecution will normally focus on one person and if they do this, they will ignore all information saying that the person actually didn’t commit the crime. Another thing that is bad about this is the fact that people can make mistakes; we have talked about all year in class about how people have been sentenced to jail because of the fact that a person wrongfully identified a person of committing a crime. Therefore, I personally think that lineups should be taken with a grain of salt, however, this isn’t always the case and the fact of the matter is that although it might be wrong, if the jury hears the information, it can sometimes make the jury think the wrong thing. What all this means about peoples innocence and ability to prove it is that if you are a person who is currently in prison of a crime that you didn’t commit, there are resources out there that can help you prove that you are actually innocent. It may take a long time; however, if a person knows they are innocent they now have a way to prove it. Overall, it is really sad to think about all the innocent people that have been placed in prison over the year and the people who have died because of the fact that they weren’t able to prove their innocence in time.

I thought this was an interesting radio show. I was interested to hear about how states are going through cases that had DNA evidence that can be gone through to determine whether or not the inmates were actually guilty or not. DNA has shown that mistakes have been made throughout time and many people have been sentenced when they were innocent. DNA evidence can even show police wrong doings. Illinois is currently leading in the amount of inmates found innocent thanks to DNA.

The first thing I found interesting was the story about the white medical student that was murdered in an African American neighborhood. The police tried to bully a man into confessing to the murder. The first man did not confess. The police then talked to two of Larry's friends. One of his friends signed the confession, after being tricked into signing. I thought this was pretty bad that police would stoop low just to try and make it look like they found the perpetrator. The police profiler was interesting. He made a profile and it appeared that the police took the profile, added the names and had them sign it as a confession.

In this case the police sold their case to the news station, and they played the story how the police wanted it to be presented to the media. Not only did they sell the story to the media but they tried to sell it to possible witnesses. They tried to make a witness by telling someone what to say at the trial. When he decided not to take their deal he was also arrested and charged with the murder.

I was surprised to learn about how many people are wrongfully convicted. I have always wondered how people could be wrongfully convicted. It is obvious that there are a number of different reasons that people are wrongfully convicted. It seems like one of the most common reasons for false confessions are because of the interrogations that force the suspects to confess even when they did not commit the crime. Sometimes even when there is DNA evidence it was not collected correctly so it can not be used. It also seems like some people in prison might be convicted just because the police need someone to blame the crime on.

Within 10 years after DNA testing began, the releases of innocent people being released were making headlines. Larry had become the groups lawyer. He was reading law books and writing letters to a number of different people and groups to try and get help. Larry found that the prosecution had given contradictory statements. It would have been easy for them to get released because none of their blood types matched the the blood type collected at the crime scene.

Cathleen Zellner was a woman that Larry wanted to get to help present the knew facts. She was becoming famous for finding the wrongfully convicted with DNA evidence and sue the state. Fifteen years after they were originally arrested they were released. Zellner used over $50,000 of her own money to get the case back in courts.

I also found it interesting how the police made a 14 year old boy confess to the murder of his own sister. The police used a computer voice stress analyzer to get the boy to confess. It is similar to the polygraph test. We have learned through this class is that the lie detector test is not very reliable. The computer voice stress analyzer has shown no evidence. The police are trying to make it seem like they have evidence so that they will make it seem like they know he is guilty. The boy says he doesn't remember if he did it, and the police say that happens sometimes.

I thought this radio show was really interesting and showed a lot of information about the wrongfully convicted. It makes me wonder just how many people could have been arrested and sentenced to prison even if they are innocent. DNA evidence has been beneficial to a large number wrongfully convicted people.

When looking at the innocence project website I thought it was very interesting to read though some of the cases. One case was about a man who served 14 years in prison for raping two young girls. When his case evidence was revisited forensic scientist found that nothing matched him. Therefore he was released and is now a free man. This case along with the two cases I listened to expressed how influential and important DNA is. In all of these cases DNA was the primary factor that proved evidence; otherwise these individuals would have stayed in prison for the rest of their lives. It is startling to think about how many people are in prison for crimes they did not commit. I can’t even imagine what I would do or where I would begin to try and get a new trial. According to the radio segment Illinois had the most wrongful convictions; I instantly began to wonder why. Through the program it was apparent that there had been errors through the entire process. Beginning when the woman was found and the conviction of the four young boys. The fact that DNA was not around was not the only problem with the case. There were errors found when the case was revisited that several aspects and several people involved in the case had made some major errors that almost cost four boys lives. Therefore it is extremely important for procedures to be used properly and to be revisited and reviewed for possible changes. For example when DNA came about every case should have been revisited if there was any doubt. However I understand the there is not enough people or money to do so. I just wonder how many people are in prison for a crime they did not commit.

I think innocence and the idea of it is very different for all people, but in simplistic terms I think of it as you didn’t do anything wrong and you are not related to the crime in anyway. It was interesting to hear how the man was able to see who was really innocent and who was faking it. He explained characteristic that expressed what an innocent person looks like in prison. He said they spend a lot of time in the library trying to get someone to revisit their case, they are confident and act differently. I would never think that a person who was in prison for a crime they did not commit would be able to keep their composure and act and behave differently. But I suppose what else would you do, as if you give up you are more likely to stay in prison forever.

DNA is extremely important because it tells a story that is 100% truthful. DNA can prove exactly who was at the crime and what they did based on where their DNA is found. DNA played a huge role in the case of the four boys, as without DNA they would still be in prison. Science has come a long way and I can only hope that it will continue to improve so errors that occur will not be as likely to happen. For example the little boy who was interrogated for his sister death. So many wrong things happened by police. They convinced him that he killed his own sister even though he didn’t overall changes in science and other procedure will hopefully decrease the number of wrongful convictions that occur.

As for cases that do not have DNA evidence, obviously their case will not be as strong. And hopefully it is handled correctly and not like the case of the four boys. I think it is more difficult to prove innocence when there is not any DNA evidence. Simply because there is more reliance of eyewitness testimony and police records. Now I think it is very important to remember that not every person who handles a case causes or is involved in an error. It is just proven that errors occur in these situations.

Overall I thought this was very interesting and startling. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be convicted for a crime I did not commit. And it is scary to think that it really happens and that there are people serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit

I was happy to see that there were so many projects going on to help free the innocent people behind bars. But I also was almost disgusted with how many people were being freed; because that means that a lot of people are in prison that do not belong there. I feel that innocence is a very important thing and because of that we should make absolutely sure that a person is guilty before putting them in jail.

I looked at the Wisconsin innocent project and so far they have freed sixteen people. This project is put on by law students going to school in Wisconsin. They have found people innocent based on DNA evidence but also through investigations involving no DNA evidence. This made me think, if law students could find a person innocent just based on the pure facts (excluding DNA) why did professional investigators find them guilty. This could be attributed to many aspects. One is confirmation bias. If an investigator thinks a person committed a crime they may look for evidence confirming this belief but not for evidence that refutes it. However, when someone’s future is at stake I feel that professional should be aware of this bias and limit it as much as possible. Another factor that I thought might be relevant it the sheer fact that investigators and police want to be able to pin a crime on a person in order to save their reputation and please the public (this is seen in Perfect Evidence). Even though it is scary that many innocent people have been wrongly convicted, it is settling to know that those mistakes are in the process of being rectified.

At the start of Perfect Evidence it was noted that DNA evidence not only can free innocent people but it can also aid in finding the actual perpetrator. 1300 criminals are matched to crimes every year based on DNA evidence. It was also stated that in one case where a person was freed the evidence was from 1985. Even though the evidence is old, as long as there are still traces of the DNA the evidence can be used. DNA evidence has also brought the light the wrong doings of police officers in cases. Some police officers have used questionable tactics in order to extract convictions.

An example of how DNA evidence was used was described is this radio broadcasting. Three men were accused of raping and murdering a white medical student. The first problem with this case was the fact that this white woman was murdered in a predominantly black neighborhood. This brought it much publicity, and put pressure on the police. This supports the fact that black person is much more likely to be convicted of a crime, especially when the crime was against a white person. Also because of the pressure that police felt they may have made more investigating mistakes and also pressured the suspects to confess even though they did not have much physical evidence against them. The police asked the suspects leading questions has well as using brutality it order to get a confession. With one suspect they kept him awake for hours and then coerced him to sign a confession by telling him that after he signed he could go home and see his mom. After this suspect confessed they put one of the other suspects in solitary confinement without explaining the charges against him. If this was known it could have caused all the suspects to be released. Also if the court found out that one of the suspects was sleep deprived when he signed his confession that evidence would not have been able to be used in court.

After the confessions of the suspects police called on a criminal profiler to make an educated guess on the events that occurred that night. Police than used this as the actual facts that happened during the murder. They even tried to convince someone to testify as a witness to these events. When this person refused he was then also charged with the murder. This part made me cringe because police knew they were charging an innocent man with murder but they were trying to cover up their own tracks. The police also lied to an expert who wanted to review the case. They said that they evidence was destroyed, when in fact in was not. This would have led to the freeing of these innocent men sooner than they actually were. In later was found that the prosecution also lied. They gave different testimonies during the trials. With each different trial they said that the semen match those of the other suspects, but not the one currently on trial. In reality the semen was not a match for any of the suspects. The suspects in this trial were basically scape goats that the police pinned the murder and rape on.

Cases involving DNA have a much more likely chance of being able to determine that actual predator, because they can biologically prove that someone was linked, or not, to a crime. Now that DNA is commonly used people have a much more likely chance to prove they are innocent if DNA is left at the crime scene. Matching DNA to a person is black and white. It either matches or it does not. This leads to les inferring and more facts which can help a person establish their innocence. Hopefully now that DNA evidence is more available it will lead to less innocent people being convicted of crimes

Just from reading into these different websites its amazing to see how much has gone wrong in our justice system. As the summary points out its not just criminals making mistakes but attorneys, police, and forensics. There was a story on one of the links that showed an attorney was being held accountable for an innocent man going to prison for years because he withheld evidence that would have led to his being not guilty. So if that has happened in that case how many times has that happened in other cases. As we have learned in class and most people know public defenders are not good lawyers for the most part. Let me rephrase that for the most part they don’t care about their client because they aren’t being paid to make that person win. They are just being paid to defend them. So they don’t care if they get information wrong or don’t get an innocent man freed or incarcerated.
My book report actually had to do a little bit with this topic. Picking Cotton was a story where someone was falsely convicted due to what was considered very accurate eye witness testimony. After spending years in prison he is finally exonerated due to DNA evidence. It was actually after his story that the law professor presiding over his case went on to start the Innocence project. There are multiple themes in this book that relate though. Obviously the fact that he was exonerated but there are some other finer points. At one point during his attempts at a retrial he brought it up to the judge that someone else had confessed to his crimes. But since the only other person who could confirm that was a prisoner as well they didn’t allow the evidence in court. It was later found out that person was the person who did it. Had the judge allowed it Cottons Exoneration would have been swifter. His decision to use DNA evidence came about after the O.J. Simpson trial, which was the first huge case involving it. At the time no one knew what DNA was. Actually to this day a lot of people don’t properly understand what DNA is. Which is another point that mishandling information can lead to someones false incarceration. If someone doesn’t understand the meaning behind certain evidence such as DNA (which is a very powerful form of evidence) it can potentially be misused and overall damaging to the client.
Another point we went over in class is how police can screw up evidence. Not only that but their techniques for obtaining a confession can be misleading or illegal and therefore they can convict someone that is truly innocent. There have been numerous counts of illegally obtained confessions where the person was later convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. It was interesting listening to the radio cast of the 3 boys who were convicted due to pressure from the community. Because of this pressure the cops made mistakes in getting the confessions of the 3 boys and they were sentenced to prison.
Now this all relates to psychology in many ways. 1. If you think clinical psychology you could think that a lot of these people would need that kind of help after they got out of prison. A lot of people get institutionalized and are not able to properly function outside of prison life. This could take weeks if not years of psychological help to get through the rough times. 2. If you look at behavioral psychology you can look at what kind of treatment would be best for those in prison. It’s a form of behavioral psychology that prison uses on you to follow the rules. Its very similar to the military in this fashion. I can only assume that it would be very difficult to get back into the normal behavior associated with civilians after being in prison so long. I remember just coming back from Afghanistan I couldn’t be in large crowds of people I didn’t know. I couldn’t stand hearing loud noises. And I would always sit so I could see an exit of anywhere I went. I would imagine that similar if not the same things happen to those in prison. I would gesture to say that sleeping problems would be a major issue, not wanting to be in a big crowd( they would be used to being by themselves a lot) and wouldn’t feel safe in large public places. 3. Going along slightly with clinical psychology, a lot of people develop social disorders or psychological disorders while in prison. You always see in movies and shows how some people will crack especially in solitary confinement. Well if they are exonerated then they will need psychological counseling to help them through the depression or more serious disorders.
The innocence project is a very noble idea. However, I would imagine that while some people are glad they were exonerated it would just be almost to much to bear having gone through 10+ years of prison and wasted that much of your life to come out of it and the courts just expect you to cope. There would be so much psychological damage done, but on the flip side it would be more gratifying to the family and friends to know that someone they loved didn’t actually commit a crime(usually sinister) In picking cotton the charge was rape and while no one in his family believed he did it, it would be a relief to hear the news after all. So overall it was very interesting reading about the innocence project especially once we can apply all the other things we have learned about it over the course of the semester. I hope that the project will continue to have the results that it has had up to this point and will continue to exonerate people. However, if our justice system could find a way to not have innocent people incarcerated the need for such a project wouldn’t exist. This would take a very large effort and perfect cops to complete though. Both of which will never happen. But in the meantime there are people that are willing to help those who say they are innocent to try and prove their innocence through this project.

The Innocent Project website state that there have been 306 exonerated post-convictions in the United States because of DNA findings. Of these 306 exonerations, 18 of the people were on death row, and another 16 were convicted of a capital crime. The average length of time served is 13.6. The fact that there have already been so many exonherations makes me think how many other innocent people are in prison. I can’t even begin to imagine knowing that I was innocent and spending almost 14 years in prison.

To me, plain ol’ innocence is when a person is accused of something (for example eating someone’s food), pleads their innocence (says they didn’t do it), and no further questions are asked, the other person believes them.
Actual innocence seems to be when a person is accused of a crime, is sentenced for the crime even though they did not commit it, and then it is later (hopefully) found out that they didn’t actually commit the crime. AN example of actual innocence would be the story of Calvin Willis, who was convicted of the rape of a young girl and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It was later proved by DNA testing that; in fact, he was innocent of the rape. Some things that were involved with Calvin’s false conviction were the eyewitness misinformation, and the police misconduct. The eyewitness misinformation occurred when each of the girls had a different story of what the man looked liked, while the police misconduct occurred when they told one of the young girls to look for a man without a beard. As the website showed, eyewitness misidentification played a role in 75% of the exonerated cases. Some other examples of police or government misconduct include coercing false confessions and/or lying or intentionally misleading jurors about their observations.

DNA is important in proving people’s innocence because it is one of the sure fire ways to convict or exonerate a person. There is little room for argument under the circumstances of DNA evidence. The website stated that in the 75% of eyewitness information, in almost every case DNA evidence was what helped to prove a person’s actual innocence. Cases that have no DNA are so much harder to prove innocence. In these cases, the evidence is solely based on eyewitness testimony, other types of evidence that isn’t as concrete, etc. The fact that there are already statistics showing that these types of evidence leave room for error makes it that much more difficult to prove innocence. A person may be unable to prove his/her evidence if there is no concrete proof, such as DNA, and in the end they may spend a long time in prison. Although it is possible to prove someone’s innocent without DNA evidence, it makes the chances that much more difficult.

I found all of websites based on innocence projects to be very interesting and it gives hope that there are people out there who are willing to find the whole truth. Most of these projects are non-profit, and they get their money from private donations, so it is important to inform as many people as possible of the great number of innocent people in prison, so that we can get innocent people out of prison and back to their normal life as soon as possible.


The innocence project really exemplifies the problems, biases and inconsistencies of the justice system as a holistic entity. Unless the general public has actually participated in some way shape or form in terms of being a defendant or a jury member, the stresses and problems in which the justice system creates cannot be fully represented. For example, unless the general public has studied the biases of judges, the interrogation techniques which are used, and the problems with eyewitness testimony as we have this semester then the general consensus of the public would be that the system works and the reputation would be viewed that all in jail are criminals and deserve to be there. However, this is far from the case as that through wrongful collections of trace evidence at crime scenes, the way jurors and judges think and by far the weight that jurors give to eyewitness testimony there indeed are people in jail who were wrongfully convicted.
The question then remains among the criminal justice system specifically in terms of reform on how to go about exoneration these people? As we witnessed from the Shawshank redemption movie everyone in jail sees themselves as being “innocent” or locked up as a result from a public defenders lack of enthusiasm, rather than paid legal aid which would be unbiased and probably more willing to fight for the defendants case. So the question remains if they truly are innocent, but were convicted once already what changes and evaluations can be made to sort out the claims of innocence among those in jail (which are many) from those who are truly actually innocent?
The only real way this can be achieved would be through DNA testing as the innocent project has pointed out. As we have looked before in terms of the interrogation process, and in terms of eyewitness memory if a case was to come up for review some ten years let’s say after the perpetrator was convicted the eyewitness memory and the written reports, of the case may not justly depict what actually happened. However, DNA testing does become biased and is crucial in the exoneration process. This is because DNA testing does not rely on eyewitness identification, nor on the interrogation process but rather on direct inductive and specific biological conclusions which can certainly affirm guilt, or innocence. However, not all cases have the necessary physical evidence that can be tested which is needed to exonerate innocent criminals which is why reform in the processes of interrogation and the way in which the courts are run need to be addressed.
As a result three factors in terms of reform should really be addressed. Firstly the way in which police interrogation processes function should be addressed, eyewitness identification and the weight it is given in court needs to be changed, and the emphasis that confessions somehow stand along in correlation with the interrogation process needs to be called for reform.
A false confession occurred in the story of Johnny Wilson which correctly exemplifies the problems associated with the police interrogation process/emphasis to get a confession out of the accused. In this case Johnny served eight years before being pardoned because he was coerced into confessing his crimes (and we all know that confessions are key, even if they are wrongfully obtained). Through the interrogation process officers want you to feel a loss of control, be in a setting which personifies social isolation, and interrogate the suspect in such a way that assumes a certainty of guilt. In Johnny Wilson’s case it’s possible he did not understand what was going on in his surroundings due to his mental state and simply confessed to leave the aggressive interrogation room known as a authentic-voluntary false confession which we have studied before in the semester and normally is a result of someone confessing to a crime due to a lack of understanding the stressful interrogation surroundings and because a result of his mental illness, all reasons why the interrogation process needs to be reformed. Especially in cases in which people confess and there is no DNA evidence to exonerate them later, leading to even further problems within the justice system.
Bennett Barbour is another case in which the innocence project addressed which raises to question the issues of eyewitness identification. In this case he was accused of rape in a line-up, which jurors later put too much emphasis on leading to a conviction based on wrongful eyewitness identification. In this case eyewitness memory comes into play which is the leading cause for wrongful convictions. Further, the line-up could have caused problems as that it was all simultaneous rather than sequential, which could have led to a bad line-up. So in this case the problems with the line-up (interrogation process) and the eyewitness testimony lead to a wrongful conviction which was later overturned by DNA.
The innocence project then becomes a focal point for discussion amongst reformers, and judges alike. Although not every case has DNA evidence to overturn cases of wrongful conviction it is bringing to light the fact that wrongful conviction based on the interrogation and collection of evidence as well as eyewitness testimony which can often be wrong is a problem. As a result although there is not crucial DNA evidence which is unbiased from most human error the innocence project does bring to light review of cases even without much physical evidence to test in terms of DNA because through these cases judges and reformers are being made aware of the problems biases and inconsistences of identification through memory, and the harsh interrogation process. So even though not every case has DNA to test, review and exoneration in some cases it does bring discussions to the problems with the justice system that should be looked at for reform.

I watched the video of Betty Anne Waters who helped exonerate her brother after he served 18 years for suspected murder. She claims in the video that her brother was the last person she ever expected to commit the crime and she knew he was innocent throughout the whole sentencing. It must be difficult to know that someone you love is serving prison time for an extended period and you are literally helpless. Fortunately she kept sending the District Attorney's office letters hoping they could get a blood sample from the crime scene and compare it to Kenny Walter's blood. During this whole process its not as it time stood still for Kenny. He had a prison sentence to serve and ultimately served a total of eighteen years before they finally claimed he was innocent. In my opinion they should offer some sort of pension plan for those who are wrongfully convicted. These people literally could spend half of their lives in prison, some even their whole life, and essentially have it wasted because of evidence they the jury, judge and prosecutors deemed worthy of a conviction. It seems easy to say now after hearing all of this information, but evidence should completely point to a suspected person as the criminal before they are sent off to serve life.

I think its great that a majority of the states have websites that are solely dedicated to exonerating innocent criminals of their crimes. It truly is a step in the right direction because the inmates who are fortunate enough to come out of prison are only a fraction of the way complete with proving their innocence. It should be noted that once your name has been affiliated with prison it is hard to remove that stigma. Once these innocent people are put back into the real world it may become difficult to get accustomed to this new way of life. Businesses are still going to be hesitant hiring an ex convict even if their name has been cleared of all crimes. Finding a stable job and maintaing relationships with old friends can prove to be difficult because of the stigma attached to your name. One of the links I wish would have worked was the life after innocence link. It would be interesting to see how they interact once they are free.

One perspective I tried to take when listening to the audio files was the fact that almost everywhere in prisons there is at least one person who shouldn’t be there. That person can't complain about their innocence because I bet half the people in the prison believe they shouldn’t be there. He/she simply sits in there cell almost hopeless unless someone on the outside can get the ball rolling for them. The introduction of DNA testing and evidence has helped tremendously because now those prosecuting can be positive that they are sending the right person to prison. The audio files helped shed light on the importance of DNA testing on police procedures. The goal of the police is to elicit a confession but some go to great lengths to pin the right man. Sure most of the tactics are beneficial but when does it become too beneficial that innocent people admit to crimes they didn't commit. Chapter 2 in our textbook provided more information on DNA testing. We read earlier about the case of Trisha Meili who was jogging in a New York City park when she was raped and beaten by about five men. Police got five random black men who happened to be in the wrong place at the time to admit to the rape. Years later after comparing blood and semen samples between the jogger's shorts and the convicted men, they announced they had convicted the wrong people. It's astounding that simple tests like blood and semen samples cannot be done prior to anyone entering prison. Times have changed since then and I'm glad states have formed “innocence projects” to exonerate the wrongfully accused.

The innocence of convicted and imprisoned civilians is all to common in America. The Innocence Project is a project that is bringing this topic to light. As I looked over the Innocence Project's website, there was a common trend I began to notice with the majority of convicted individuals that were being released after exoneration: DNA. DNA evidence has only came into the Criminal Justice system within the last 30 years. Luckily, police and detectives have been collecting DNA valid evidence for many years without even knowing it. I will get into the discussion on DNA in more detail later on in this post. The American Life episode also focused on a couple important topics that lead to false convictions. Just as important as DNA are confessions and witness testimony. This blog topic and contents really link a lot of this course's major topics together. DNA evidence, witness testimony, and false confessions all can lead to an innocent person being convicted of a crime.
At first look, the amount of people that have been exonerated post DNA evidence is breath taking. To even think that the majority of American states have their own privately funded innocence project's is a disgrace. If our country and court system's as a whole are convicting so many innocent people, something is not right. That would be the case but we must look at the whole picture. The criminal justice system cycles through millions of people every year. With everyone of those cases, many variables influence the outcome of those cases(evidence, eyewitness testimony, etc.) Each of those separate variables are delicate and necessary part of the criminal process; they are also easily contaminated as we have learned through out this course. The main point I am trying to make is that the sheer magnitude of the criminal process and the variables involved – we would be ignorant to expect perfection. However, this is not an excuse for the many years each falsely convicted persons have lost. The amount of false convictions the American courts have produces is not something to be proud of, but we can not be ignorant and demand perfection.
Innocence is innocence. There is no kinda guilty in the court system. The courts and prosecution may disagree. The actual innocence come when actual evidence is produce to prove innocence. I believe that no one can truly know actual innocence without the help of external scientific evidence, such as DNA results. As we all know, DNA is hard to argue. However, on the other hand every prisoner in Shawshank is innocent. The plain ol' innocence of someone is a belief and opinion. The actual innocence of someone is a result of fact, such as video footage or DNA evidence.
DNA is has resulted in the exoneration of hundreds of innocent people. DNA evidence is surely a definitive variable in the innocence of someone. Many factors can contribute to a false conviction like false confessions and misguided eyewitness testimony. However, DNA evidence is the most critical. As I stated earlier, the common trend on the innocence project's web page was DNA evidence resulting in a exoneration. When considering how long ago the alleged crime was committed, it's hard to produce valid evidence besides DNA evidence. They also stated on the American Life episode that a man was exonerated based on DNA evidence on a cigarette but, still in evidence from decades earlier. This also poses a problem from “innocent” convicts that do not have any DNA evidence from their alleged crime. The ability to be able to prove your innocence is obviously the most important aspect of being innocent. Without DNA evidence to go off of, it is extremely difficult to be exonerated. A couple years back, I man in his 60's came into the Waterloo Police station and admitted he was guilty of committing a double homicide in the early 1970's. The man admitted to his crime out of guilty. Fortunately, there was not an innocent man rotting in jail from a false conviction. The chances that someone will openly confess to a crime years after is slim to none. With the help of DNA evidence, the courts hopefully wont have to worry about such a situation. Until we can make the criminal justice system perfect and without flaw, the innocent projects around the country will always be needed.

I always think that mostly everyone in the prisons is guilty, but I always would think that there were innocent people in the prisons. Not everyone is perfect and when there are 12 normal people who usually vote on whether they believe a person is guilty, and then it makes it hard to know if the person they have voted guilty is actually guilty. There was and still can be a lot of discrimination towards certain types of people in the court rooms and I think that is a big reason why people in prison have been exonerated. I think what the police do for suspects to even confess is wrong and very sneaky. There have been 259 people that have been exonerated from prison, but nothing can take back all the time they have spent in that terrible place for something they were innocent for. Realizing that there was not as much technology to show DNA samples 20-30 years back, you have to take that into account and wonder how many people are actually still innocent in the prisons. A lot of people who are guilty try and plead innocent although they know they have committed a crime. Nobody wants to go to prison so they obviously are going to say they did not commit a crime. There was a case on, "The Innocence Project" website that talked about Kenny Waters and how he spent 19 years of his life in prison for a murder crime he never committed. His sister, Betty Anne Waters, went back to law school because she believed her brother to be innocent, which he was, and got him exonerated. It is crazy the determination that women had to go 19 years to get her brother out of jail because she knew he was innocent.

Actual innocence I believe is the state in which a defendant in a criminal case is innocent of charges against them because they have committed no crime. Plain ol' innocence is someone believing that a person is innocence based on no actual evidence. In these types of situations, DNA is crucial because that is the difference from actual innocence and plain ol' innocence. This is a reason why people question the courts because sometimes people are not proven to be guilty. There may be no DNA evidence and that can be the risk of a man's life in prison. I first think to how the courts could make these mistakes. Is it because of the jury? Is it because they don't care? And then I think about how people aren't perfect and may make mistakes sometimes. Some other reasons why innocent people are sent to prison is because of the lawyering. If a person cannot afford an attorney, they are given one, and usually this attorney is not going to be as good of a lawyer compared to one that is being paid at ridiculous amounts. There are also informants who may tell the police something they thought they had seen and that may actually be false. There is also improper forensic science that is involved which can be detrimental in a case. But when the police force it out of someone, I think that is wrong. There are cases where innocent people have been brought in for questioning and because of nerves and stress and there psyche, actually believe they have committed a crime, although in the back of their mind they know they have not. But once a person has confessed, there is no turning back.

It is a disturbing to know that there are many people in prison that have not committed a crime. Even for the people that are exonerated, it is hard to feel happy for them getting out because of the time they spend in prison. They go back to the real world and nothing is really the same and they are still looked at as criminals. It is not fair, but the world isn't fair. But in the courts, trial should be fair. Juries should think more in-depth about the trial when voting on rather a man is innocent or guilty, but the courts will remain imperfect. There is really no way to be 100% correct on the innocent or guilty in court unless there is a miracle breakthrough in technology and forensic science. So for now and until then, trial will have to be based on the word of the, lawyers, and the police, witnesses, and the defendants. I am sure there are many more people in prison that are innocent, but for all these people to get exonerated will take a lot of time and effort. It is a very unfortunate situation.

The first thing I did for this assignment was take a look at the main Innocence Project web page to get some background knowledge. I found it very helpful and interesting, especially while exploring the top tabs. You are actually able to browse the profiles of those who have helped be free from prison by using exonerating evidence. I also didn't realize how hard it actually is for those who have been freed to get back into life. They often have a hard time finding a job and housing. Also, until the charges get removed from their records, these ex-prisoners have a hard time fitting back into society as well. I think it is great that the Innocence Project is developing a program to aid people in this transition. The other thing I really liked about this website was understanding WHY there are innocent people in prison, and a lot of the aspects I recognized from this class. The website lists errors in the following: eyewitness identification, forensic science misuse, false confessions (which I will touch on again later), government misconduct, snitches, and bad lawyers. I also looked through a few of the other Innocence Project websites, but I still think this one was my favorite.
After I had my background knowledge, I listened to the radio show. The prologue shocked me when one of the men from the Innocence Project said that he had a stack of letters from inmates claiming to be innocent as tall as he was. He also said, however, that there is a process to go through, especially weeding out the inmates who really aren't innocent and are just trying to get out of prison time. The next two acts were very disturbing in terms of how the police handled the situation. The first was about a group of 4 African American teenagers who were falsely accused of the rape and murder of a white woman. I will stop right here to say that race seems to be a factor in those who are falsely accused. In my website research I found that 70% of those who are later found innocent are African American. This case got a lot of publicity, and the men who were falsely accused are speaking out now. It seemed that two of the men were very coerced into a confession by the police, while one stayed very strong. This did not matter, as in their confession, the other two named this man and another as well. I was shocked because it hit me at that moment why their are so many innocent people in prison. The police are more
interested in just finding someone to name responsible for the crime and then move on. This reminded me of the assignment on interrogation. The police use brutal tactics and are even able to lie in order to get a confession. I remember the radio show also said that most of the time people will confess to a crime under the extreme pressure if told that there is DNA evidence because they know they didn't do it and that their DNA will test clean. Sometimes, there really isn't any DNA so these people are screwed over in the end. The last act was especially disturbing. Through such intense interrogation, the police were actually able to convince a young man that he had killed his sister. He was so psychologically weak and a story was put before him and his brain tried to put the details together, which is also something we discussed in class. The young man just sobbed because he thought he had actually killed his sister even though he was innocent. This radio show really seems to point a finger at police, calling the cops in the scenario "stupid" even. I can't help but agree. In order to work in a justice system it is only fair and Constitutional that the right person is being put away. After looking through all of this information, I have learned that DNA can mean life or death for some people. DNA is the only sure fire way to determine who was with a victim the moments before they died, and there is no "he said" "she said" involved. After reading your question and listening to the radio, I too wondered what happened to those who were innocent but no DNA is found? I actually found a link on the Innocence Project website for non-DNA exonerations. Although it is significantly less likely, the Innocence Project has had cases where the person is later found innocent because the DNA evidence has been destroyed or tampered with, and because of this they did not have a fair trial. Also, although DNA evidence has not been found in some cases, the extra time spent studying and searching for the case leads to other verdicts.
In the end, I learned that DNA is really the best way to prove the innocence of a person. My faith is a little shaken in the police after learning about this project, but I feel that the exposure is necessary to keep everything in balance. I am very glad a program like this exists, and I can only imagine how hard it is to distinguish between someone who really is innocent or someone who is trying to play innocent to get out of prison.

Prior to this assignment I had never even heard of the innocence project. After reading through the links that were provided I just thought that the information was incredibly interesting and that it really shows the issues that are held within our justice system. I was really over joyed to see that there were so many different innocence projects that were working towards exonerating individuals who were wrongly convicted. I think that this project is an incredibly important thing to have around, if there were not people who are willing to go forward and help people who were wrongly convicted they may spend many more years or the rest of their lives within prison walls. I just so happened to look at the Wisconsin innocence project since it is close to Iowa. In just their chapter alone law students have worked hard and gotten sixteen people freed relying on new DNA technologies for most of said cases. I think that this is astonishing; looking at the number that they have succeeded in releasing just puts into question how many people are in prison right now for something they did not do. Whether is be because of sloppy policing or that newer technology can determine they are not the criminal.

I have never liked these radio shows that we have to listen to for some posts, I have another class where we frequently listen to the This American Life radio show as well. But this one actually had interesting tidbits throughout it. It absolutely amazes me that one hundred individuals have been freed in the last decade based off of DNA evidence. It is actually incredibly terrifying that that many individuals are wrongly convicted. The individuals who were found innocent and released are incredibly lucky that they did not have to spend their full term in prison, I know that if I were truly innocent and then later on proven so I would be incredibly angry with policing. I think that as a society advancing our technologies in science so that we are able to process DNA evidence was and is still incredibly important. Without such technology we would have an exponential amount of people in our prisons and many more of those individuals would most likely be innocent, which is an incredibly scary thought. Also if there is no DNA at the crime I feel like it is just that much harder to prove guilt, if individuals are wrongly convicted without DNA evidence I feel as though that was a result of sloppy police work and that would be hard to prove them innocent.

I honestly think with the number of innocent people that are incarcerated and put into prison scares me. What could the police be doing so wrong that causes so many good people to be put in a place that is made for people who choose to do the wrong thing and get caught? This time it is put on the polices’ shoulders and not the criminals. We need police to stop creating bad people and giving them a negative look; how can we as citizens trust the police if they keep putting the good people who did absolutely nothing wrong in prison or jail? We can no longer look to the police as a good guy and a great way to help us if they keep doing stupid things like this. Getting innocent people to confess to crimes they did not even commit is so wrong. They could have been at the wrong place and time or just they might have been framed. Situations like this lead to bad consequences and the police should not be at the center of all this. We are supposed to trust them and have them help us not put us in jail for something we did not do if that is the case.


Why must we focus on DNA you question? DNA is one of the only tests to figure out the real bad guy; just because no one can mess up DNA too badly. It sticks with us from the day we were created from sperm and egg to the day we die. It is linked to us any way in which we think about it: saliva, semen, blood, hair, etc. With DNA evidence present at a crime scene there is no real way you can imprison someone who is innocent; so there must be some linkage with people contaminating the evidence or just not giving a damn about what is going on and throwing evidence away to lock up someone who does not belong there, which is quite crummy. DNA is a great source to rely on just because ONE set is linked to ONE person; we all know that no two people can have the same strands of DNA.


Cases without the whole DNA evidence, if there is any evidence of DNA being at the scene, is like a body without a functioning brain. The point is, is that it is useless, as sad as that sounds. We cannot engage with that person if they are not responding to what we have to offer or say. So, a case without DNA evidence present is useless. It will be hard to determine who actually did commit the crime. Unless DNA was available we could not really imprison someone for something unless there was other factual information or evidence present at the case. To me this means people who are innocent should stay innocent until there is DNA available unless, like I said above in the last sentence, there was other information that made it obvious that they committed the crime. They cannot prove anything until there is a large amount of reasonable evidence shown.


We all know the rule, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but do we really know why some people are just thought of innocent without being tried. Do they have the “look” of being innocent or what?

Before this week’s blog and from earlier in the class I hadn’t really heard of Innocence projects. I had heard of individual cases where people started a cause for an individual but never would I imagined that there would be a network so large of those who were believed to be wrongly incarcerated. Just reading through all the cases just from each area its incredible to read all the cases where there were false confessions involved in closing cases. There was a case where a teen was scared and because the police questioned him so hard he confessed just so the interrogation would end. It amazes me just how often these claims can actually be true as well! It just goes to show that interrogations are so stressful and sometimes the police make the interrogation have that sort of atmosphere because they need them to confess, even if they are innocent!
It really didn’t hit me until I listened to the This American life segments on the false imprisonments. With the first story with Larry, Omar, and Calvin I was shocked that the police was so spurred by the public to find a suspect that they took a profile done by the FBI and then went and found someone to make it fit. Not only that but they found Omar and “told” him what he would say to give the prosecution an eyewitness. The reason of course being that an eyewitness would further the case against the defense. It would also make the detectives false case more airtight if they (the defense) were to accuse them of making a mockery of our justice system. The jury at the time ate up the DNA evidence and because Omar didn’t take the deal he was forced into jail as an accessory, so the prosecution lost the eyewitness. Back to the interrogations they tricked Calvin into signing a confession stating he did the crime by saying he could go home if he signed it. That was just low, they interrogated a minor with no parental involvement at all just to close a case. The trial was almost a foregone conclusion of a guilty verdict. The prosecution had an expert with DNA evidence connecting the defendants and they had testimony from a fourth person who agreed to testify against them in exchange for a plea deal so they were found guilty.
They next covered what happened in prison mainly speaking about how they constantly tried to get an appeal and didn’t do so until someone took their case on appeal due to DNA evidence. Though they talk about two things that really spoke to me, one they mentioned the violence they had to deal with in jail. As they were in prison for rape and murder, their fellow prisoners would go at great lengths to inflict harm to them for a variety of reasons. I believe at one point one of them had been stabbed in one altercation fourteen times! In the chapter that we covered prison life and violence, any act of violence or even murder was used to increase your own standing in the prison. The higher your status the more power you have the safer you generally are (or you get a larger target painted on your back).
The final segment was a short story on a brother being convicted of killing his sister. He of course following the theme of the day was exonerated via DNA evidence. What really stood out for me in the short segment was that his interrogation lasted eleven hours. That’s just crazy to me that it’d go on that long. I wonder what the officers that were doing the interrogation could have been doing with that amount of time. To conclude I like the idea of using DNA evidence to exonerate people because I’m sure that there are people that are wrongfully imprisoned. Yet it’s just like the insanity defense when it first became a popular defense. Prisoners will see that people are getting freed because of it and will start demanding a retrial or to be freed because of it. Then time will be wasted in court when it turns out they’re still guilty. So I do believe it’s a good thing, but like many things it can be easily abused.

Throughout my time in this class, many readings we have been required to read have opened my eyes to many things. However, one of the most eye opening situations I have read about in multiple chapters of our book, and also demonstrated throughout movies we have watched for class, is the incredibly heart shattering amount of innocent people who are put into our prison systems each and every year. Not only did we read about this in the chapters of our psylaw textbook, but we also just previously watched a movie about a clearly innocent man, in the movie Shawshank Redemption. I fully believe that there are large number of prisoners waiting in prison to finally be found innocent, and I think the Innocence Project is a very good thing. We have learned how important DNA is in cases and how much DNA can either help or hurt a case. But what if, it is the police and investigators fault for not preserving that DNA evidence correctly? The Innocence Project not only helps those where DNA evidence is available, but also where it is not. According to the website on the Innocence Project,
“These cases underscore a critical point: DNA testing alone cannot overturn most wrongful convictions. In fact, experts estimate that DNA testing is possible in just 5-10% of all criminal cases. That is why a growing number of organizations in the Innocence Network handle cases regardless of whether DNA testing is possible (Non DNA Exonerations).”
So where many people think that just by having DNA evidence can overturn a case they are wrong. That is why it is so difficult to free innocent people in our prison systems. In the radio show I listened to called Perfect Evidence, they explain that they are nearly waist deep in over 2,000 letters from prisoners who believe that DNA evidence could set them free. That shows how many people could potentially be innocent which is shocking. We learned in class that sometimes police interrogations can lead to wrong confessions, meaning, they make someone confess to a crime they didn’t even commit. DNA evidence could help so that this doesn’t happen.
As far as the difference between actual innocence and plain innocence is this; Actual innocence is a state of affairs in which a defendant in a criminal case is innocent of the charges against them because they did not in fact commit the crime of which they have been accused. On the other hand, plain innocence is something that I couldn’t really find a true definition for. I guess plain innocence may be like in the movie Shawshank when Andy knows he is innocent but can’t really do anything about it except for to take matters into his own hands.
Cases such as Barry Gibbs, Walter Swift, Paul House, Levon Brooks and many more are all men who were exonerated without the use of DNA. Although these men spent many years in prison some up to almost 30 years, they were eventually all exonerated but evidence other than DNA. Gibbs was exonerated due to finding out that a retired NYPD officer had stolen his police report and Swift was exonerated because of other biological evidence. This shows that even though these men didn’t have DNA evidence the Innocence Project still helped to set them free. It may take longer time and more work, but eventually in they are truly innocence they can help them.
Overall, this Innocence Project did a great job of opening my eyes even more to the many people who are still exonerated who may or may not really be innocent. I think the Innocence Project is doing a great thing for people and I would back and support what they are doing for people.

The first thing I looked at was the Innocence Project website. The website it very interesting and informative, showing how many cases have been overturned by DNA evidence proving the innocence of prisoners. One case is listed on the main page. The case involves the former Williamson County District Attorney, Ken Anderson, facing criminal charges for withholding evidence in the trial of Michael Morton. If the evidence was that was withheld had been presented in trial, Michael Morton would likely have gone free instead of serving 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, a crime he never committed.

After that, I moved on to listen to the Perfect Evidence show on This American Life. I was immediately surprised when I began listening and the people at the Innocence Projects described how many letters there were from prisoners trying to receive DNA testing to prove their innocence. The host also explains early on that half of the cases they end up trying prove that the prisoner is truly guilty. He interprets this at the time as the prisoners knowing they’re guilty and hoping to somehow get off by a mistake being made in the DNA testing. What he doesn’t address is the fact that the other half that receive DNA testing are innocent. 50% might not seem like a lot from certain circumstances but it’s incredibly important that even one of these people are actually innocent of the crime that they are serving time for. The whole show was very interesting and told of cases where DNA evidence made a significant difference. The show also told of how police can tend to cause suspects in cases to falsely confess to crimes and end up receiving a wrongful conviction.

The first story told in the show involved 4 teenagers being wrongfully convicted for the murder of a young woman. One of the teenagers was strapped to a wall and beaten by police and asked leading questions about the murder. The first teenager, Larry, didn’t confess but his friends did due to improper police proceedings in the interrogation. The false confessions lead to the police and the public believing that the teenagers truly did commit the horrible murder. One of the teens was actually approached by the police and asked to say he witnessed the others committing the murder. The teen refused to act as a false witness and was also charged with the murder because of it. Years later, the true murderers confessed to the crime, proving the innocence of all 4 of the wrongfully convicted men. What truly released them from prison was DNA evidence proving that none of them committed the crime. The story is a good example of how a person can be convicted due to improper police procedure and coercion. It is also a good example of what it is like to be in prison, as the convicted men describe their experiences during their interviews in the show.

The second story is about a young boy who falsely confessed to murdering his sister. This case was also the result of coercion and improper police proceedings, again showing how corrupt some police can be and how even standard police procedures can result in errors. The story primarily addresses how confessions and witness testimony can be unreliable. When being interrogated by the police, the young boy’s parents weren’t informed that he was being interrogated by the police, so not to worry them. The police used a computer voice stress analyzer while interrogating the boy, which caused him to become even more nervous than he already was. The story tells of how inappropriate this device is in an interrogation. The device is used as an intimidation technique and I imagine that many cases involving the use of such a device may have resulted in false confessions. The story also addresses the police falsely claiming to have evidence in the interrogation in order to obtain a confession.

After reading through the Innocence Project website and listening to the Perfect Evidence show, I am surprised by how many cases there are of people being proven innocent by DNA. All of the stories show how important DNA evidence is in proving innocence. Many of the cases also show the importance of reviewing police proceedings during interrogations to see if they used an improper method or level of coercion in order to obtain a confession. In most of the cases I have read, it seems that the people wrongfully convicted might never have been proven innocent without the use of DNA. It makes me wonder how many cases that don’t have any DNA evidence to use could be proven as wrongful convictions. All of the stories have also told of how difficult the process is of even getting DNA testing to prove innocence. Many of the stories talk about the struggle to not lose hope that they will be granted DNA testing and finally be proven innocent, and then be release from prison. Overall, it seems to me that DNA testing should be used much more often than it currently is in order to help determine if someone is truly innocent. It should also come up during the initial trial, instead of years later after struggling for testing.

I thought this website was really interesting because it provided a lot of eye opening facts, cases, and reasons why innocent people find themselves in prison. The reasons were a lot vaster than I had expected. Originally I just thought that not enough evidence was brought into the trial when innocent people were convicted but it turns out false confessions, misidentification, police misconduct, informants, and bad lawyering all play a role in wrongful convictions as well.
I did my book report on the case of Ronal Cotton so it was interesting that he was listed on this website as someone who suffered in prison due to a misidentification issue. Jennifer Thompson was raped in her apartment and when asked to identify the man from a group of photos she picked out Ronald Cotton and said “I think this is the guy” the police then asked her “Are you sure?” and then she said “Positive”. She then further asked the police if she did ok during the identification process. When the police answered the question with a “You did great” this confirmed Jennifer’s beliefs even further which dramatically altered her confidence level that she picked the right man. Crucial aspects of Ronald Cottons case is that police should have used a double-blind line-up as well as should have let Jennifer use her own words when explaining her level of confidence when identifying her assailant. The innocence project has developed a report researching the major aspects of why misidentifications happen. They highlight all of the main reasons to give themselves guidelines and to inform others of why certain cases should be re-tried. They concluded that 175 people so far have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit just because of eyewitness misidentification.
The case of Dennis Fritz’s wrongful conviction revolves around the basis forensic evidence presented at the time of trial. The hair and blood analysis testimony given by forensic analysis during Dennis’s trial gave misleading facts that incriminated Dennis with evidence, that when retried, was actually inconclusive. I found this particularly interesting because you have an expert that testified to inconclusive evidence. You have to wonder why, if the analyst was unsure, he testified to misleading evidence the ultimately convicted and sentenced Dennis Fritz to death. I believe that in cases like this profiling has a role in why people do such things. Profiling is the drawing of conclusions based on a person’s personality, behavior, motivation and demographics. They let the information they gather themselves to ultimately lead them to a particular conclusion about someone and ignore often times the facts.
In the case of Ronald Sterling, a false confession led to his wrongful confession. Due to the fact that Ronald was placed in a room with interrogators for 12 hours without a lawyer present and waived his Miranda rights, eventually it came down to the point where he just gave up and confessed to crimes he did not commit because he was just wore down. Now a days the recording of evidence is almost mandatory when interrogations occur. Knowing who said what increases the reliability of evidence as well as can help prevent wrongful convictions.
Another problem that the innocence project has exemplified on their website is government misconduct. The very people who are there to protect justice and serve their community are often times the ones who lose sight of their jobs and solely focus on convictions. It is in these times, where they get lost in a case because they want to believe the evidence that they brought in was the right evidence, that the people who get caught up in this ultimately pay the price. These types of situations are not uncommon among police officers and investigators simply because we are all human and we are all capable of making mistakes. Employing suggestions when conducting identification procedures, coercing false confessions, pressuring defense witnesses not to testify, withholding exculpatory evidence from defense and many other reasons that prosecutors as well as police officers misconduct their jobs. Ultimately we need to be weary of facts that are not fair and that are not accurate so that we do not identify the innocent but rather the guilty.
Lastly, a reason that I didn’t even think to consider involving wrongful convictions, is the fact that some defense attorneys or judges simply are inadequate at their jobs. It makes sense, again because we are all human, but you’d think that if you went in to this type of profession you’d realize that your decision making as well as your arguments during a case weighs heavily on a person’s life. An example of one man who was sentenced to death based on inadequate lawyering was the case of Earl Washington Jr. His trial only lasted 5 hours and his defense attorney only called up two witnesses to defend Earl.
I found that the innocence project is such a good resource for people and have helped so many. It is absolutely unreal how fallible our justice system is. It just makes me realized that nothing is ever perfect and there are always reasons beyond what we imagine that could be playing a role in certain cases that lead to conviction.

I believe the Innocence Project is a great idea for all states to have for the freedom of those who are wrongfully imprisoned. On one of the websites it talks about how before 1989 DNA evidence was hardly ever used. It was interesting to see how the differences in race and who was sent to jail wrong fully. 190 African Americans were wrongfully sent to jail and through DNA evidence were released. Then with Caucasians coming in second with 88 inmates being found innocent after serving time. In the U.S alone there have been 306 post-conviction DNA exonerations since 1989.
The leading cause of wrongful convictions had lot factors that were talked about in the book and in class. The most common reason for wrong conviction involved eyewitnesses misidentifying the suspect and giving faulty testimony. With at least 40% of the eyewitnesses making cross racial identification in some cases, which in most lead wrongful conviction. The book talked about how people are less able to identify people other races then their own. Then with technology not being as advanced as it is today was next greatest reason for why people were sent to jail. Some departments were not as organized as other department and at time evidence can get lost or tampered with, which then can lose it credibility. The next greatest reason for wrongful conviction can be blame on early integrations in police departments. Before certain laws were used officer could do whatever they wanted to get a confession out of a suspect. By keeping pressure on the offender and telling them over and over again that they committed the crime, the suspect will just confess to stop the questioning.
Listening to the radio show was very shocking and hard to believe how officer could do this in such a major case. The way the officer were able to get away with beating up a suspect and asking them leading questions just to get a confession. I understand that there was a lot of pressure on officer to solve this case, but it doesn’t give them the right to treat innocent people this way. The younger suspects are easier to get a confession out of them because they just want to beatings to end. I was surprised to hear how they got the confessions and how they confessions were handled. Then how the officer wanted a man to be an eyewitness, but since he refused they tied him in with the crime. Then while in court the judge there was time that judge showed that he was very bias and talked about defendant very negatively and then his closing statements when sentence was called out. Then just to build up more evidence the prosecution cut deals for some that they can have a testimony. These false testimonies were the main reasons behind the wrongful convictions. The psychological stress of what they went through in prison and they court system hard to believe. Because they were sentenced for rape they were targeted and this added to the fear and stress of being in prison. Know that they were innocent gave them hope and forced them to keep trying.
The second part of the movie where police trick the suspect into thinking that the police know that he committed the crime. They use technology and false evidence to convince the suspect into confessing to the crime and putting the idea that they did do the crime. The fact that his kid was so young and had no council in the interrogation and the officers pressured him into confession. The police had it in their minds that this kid committed the crime and didn’t even bother investigating other suspects.

When browsing the websites and reading about the different cases the Innocence Project have been involved in was really moving. Before I started reading about the cases, I looked at the background of the Innocence project, like where it got started, and other general questions I had. The Innocence Project is an organization that is committed to exonerating criminals who have been wrongfully or mistakenly convicted. Project Innocence gets these wrongfully incarcerated criminals a second chance at life, they help them get exonerated by DNA testing. Most of their client base has spent years in prison before getting cleared of the crime they committed. When reading about the wrongfully convicted people it is shocking to me. I always knew that there were some people who are wrongfully convicted but I did not know how many. In their mission statement the Innocence Project state “To date, more than 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 18 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.” I think that is a lot of innocent people to accused and charged with a crime they did not commit. I was thrilled to know that there were a team of people working to get innocent people out of prison. When thinking of the question, what is the difference between actual innocence and plain ol’ innocence, I originally believed they meant the same thing. But when putting more thought and reading through the websites, I now believe there is a difference. The difference is that plain ol’ innocence is where if a crime was committed a person who was innocent would not be looked at and would not have to prove they were innocent because there was no evidence to relate that person to the crime. Meaning no matter what, the person it innocent and they do not need to try to prove it. An actual innocent is when a person had been wrongfully accused of committing a crime they have to prove it. In other words a person who is actually innocent is being wrongfully accused of a crime. DNA is important because due to technology it can be used to solve crimes and also narrow down the suspect list. The Innocence Project uses DNA in cases to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. DNA can help a case in many ways whether it be finding criminals or exonerating innocent individuals. However they are some cases that do not have DNA in those cases other forensic alternatives can be used. An example would be, using fingerprints to catch the perpetrator, if finger prints were found at the scene of the crime investigators can insert it in a database in order to get a match. There is also a profiling method an investigator can profile the criminal and try to catch them that way. Another method used would be eyewitness testimony. I believe these methods all have faults and it would be nice to have DNA presented in every crime, however that is not the case. I think it is much harder to prove a persons innocence without the presence of DNA.

I first looked at the links for the websites on the Innocence Project. It contained many individual stories of triumph in the face of adversity and wrongful conviction. The main Innocence Project page had the date at the top and the number of 306 people exonerated. I think this is an awesome and powerful project and whoever started this deserves the highest praise. The people who tirelessly work and put hours of time into others they have never even met to me have the highest character one can posses. I also looked at the Iowa Innocence Project web page, which had a lot of information about our state and its innocence program. It had information that we learned in class of how wrongful convictions come to happen, such as eyewitness identification, false confessions, eyewitness identification, and misconduct in the evidence and court processes.

Next, I listened to the radio recording about false convictions. Listening to the stories about these teenagers being falsely convicted and what they had to go through gave me goosebumps. I can't imagine what that would even be like, knowing that you are innocent and having your freedom taken from you, and finally, having won your freedom back. They said that the woman who helped free them worked 800 hours for free and spent $50,000 of her own money to get their case back in court. All I can say is God bless those who work so hard to free these people.

After reading the information on these websites and listening to the radio recording I will say I appalled at the actions of the police and investigators involved with these cases. Police officers lied to and physically and psychologically abused these people in order to obtain false confessions when they probably already knew that these people were not guilty of the crime. The false testimonies and tampering and withholding of evidence by investigators and attorneys is terrible. These people are supposed to uphold the law and the people's best interest, but some are knowingly doing the opposite. What they have to gain from their actions I do not know but it makes me question our system. The system itself may not be very flawed, but the errors of the people that carry it out make it so.

What are your thoughts on innocence and the sheer numbers of innocent people who may be in prison?

My thoughts on innocence are that if anyone is being put on trial for a crime, they are innocent until proven guilty. The key phrase here is proven guilty. There has to be convictions without a reasonable doubt that the person on trial committed the crime in question. If there is reasonable doubt that person should not be convicted and is innocent. When people's lives are at stake it is of the utmost importance to hold these values of the court system and conduct a fair and ethical trial. This is the only way to try and prevent wrongful convictions and even this is sometimes not enough. I don't even want to know the number of innocent people in prison because that stuff just scares and saddens me. Obviously no one should be punished for something they did not do.

What is the difference between actual innocence and plain ol' innocence?

Actual innocence is that you did not do what is said that you did. I don't really understand this question. Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

Why is DNA so important?

DNA is so important because it is irrefutable evidence that can either prove the guilt or innocence of a defendant. The radio program said that 1,300 criminals are matched to crimes every year by the FBI through use of DNA evidence. DNA is so important that investigators have gone back and reviewed cases with even no DNA because DNA evidence shows that mistakes can be made. It is the most powerful evidence that cannot be biased one way or another like a person can, it is what it is and it speaks for itself.

What about the cases that have no DNA? What does that mean for people's innocence and ability to prove it?

Cases that have no DNA are a little different. There is no DNA to exonerate the defendant of the crime, but there is also no DNA to convict the defendant either. Trials with no DNA evidence rely heavily on other kinds of evidence and people themselves, through eyewitness identification and testimonies. These sorts of evidence have been shown to be bias and misleading, due to the unpredictability of human actions. It makes it harder for people to prove their innocence because people make mistakes, whether knowingly or not. DNA evidence, on the other hand, is free from bias and person viewpoints that may shape a person's fate. Like I said earlier, DNA evidence speaks for itself, whether to prove a defendant guilty or set them free with innocence.

When you think of prison, you don't normally think about the idea of thousands of innocent people being wrongfully convicted and being locked up like caged animals that people think them to be, you only think of the true criminals that deserve to be locked up in prison. The thought of innocent people being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison sickens me and I feel their pain and the struggles they go through. I just feel so sorry for them. I would hate to be locked up in prison for a crime I KNOW I didn't commit but not be able to do a single thing about it, you have no control over what happens to you once you are behind prison walls. What the court says, goes when it comes to sentencing. Luckily, the discovery of DNA testing has saved a lot of innocent people that didn't deserve their punishment in the first place. This is where the Innocence Project comes into play.

The Innocence Project is known as a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, evidence, and reforming the legal system to prevent future injustice. One example of the fight to prevent future injustice is a case I found in one of the links listed above. The case of Michael Morton, a man who served 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, even though new found evidence proved that Michael did not commit the murder. So DNA testing was done and Michael Morton was exonerated. The cause of Michael Morton's conviction is all the doing of the prosecutor that was on the murder trial, former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson. Anderson is facing criminal contempt and tampering charges for withholding

After browsing through the Innocence Project and other similar websites and after listening to the This American Life program, my beliefs about innocent people being in prison have not changed. In fact, this only proves my case. I have always believed that people make mistakes, including juries, judges, prosecutors, and even defense lawyers. The Innocence Project website was very intriguing. I thought that it was very educational because they listed reasons as why an innocent person can be put into the criminal justice system. If you clicked on one of those options, a video came up of a person was put into prison due to that circumstance who has since been exonerated due to the re-evaluation of evidence.
If you were to visit a prison, many people will tell you they are innocent. However, a good portion of them will claim it only to save their reputation. Even someone who has been exonerated after serving time for a crime they did not commit will still be seen as the perpetrator (such as the three men who were convicted of raping and murdering a white woman). People who have truly been innocent, have been exonerated of their convictions are bringing attention to the flaws in our criminal justice system. Recent technology in DNA has been the primary reason for this. DNA serves as an important piece of evidence that can either free or convict a person of a crime. It is crucial to a case. The greatest thing about recent developments with DNA is the interest in opening new cases that have been previously been declared closed or “solved”. This phenomenon has begun to open cases where there is no DNA evidence or where evidence may have been destroyed or contaminated. I believe this is a great thing because now innocent people who have may have lost all hope at ever escaping their worst nightmares may be able to have faith in the criminal justice system to exonerate them. This may be able to let the victims of police coercion in “open and shut” cases to clear their name. The reopening of cases may change the criminal justice system altogether. In order to prevent the hassle of going back through old cases, police and investigators may do a more thorough investigation. However, if a person has no DNA evidence in his or her file, there may be less of a chance of exoneration. An example of this is with the three men from This American Life. If the new attorney who they asked to look into their case had not found the DNA evidence that had been collected 15 years ago from the crime scene, the men would have had no chance of getting out of prison.

The original innocence project is very much focused on the use of DNA evidence to exonerate innocent people. However, it appears that many of the judges and prisons are not always quite so willing to allow those who are exonerated to leave. It shocks me how many people are exonerated, just like it shocked me when we talked about how many false convictions there are due to eyewitness testimony. I do however understand how easy it is for the police and the prosecution to get caught up with the idea of one suspect whom they believe is guilty, and especially in high profile cases for them to eliminate any other possibilities or options. Just as the flip side is true, where often those who are guilty but the prosecution can’t build a good enough case against them go free. What is interesting to me is to see the number of people who have come off death row to be proven innocent. I always thought when a person’s life was in the balance, the jury and the prosecutor would take specific care to ensure that the accused was a guilty man beyond a reasonable doubt. It reminds me of Twelve Angry Men and how easily you can be convinced that the person is guilty because you haven’t really thought of the other possibility. When the one juror isn’t even trying to prove that he was without a doubt innocent, but that there was at least a possibility that he didn’t do it, and that they should really examine that possibility because he was facing the death penalty.
The difference between actual innocence and “plain ol’ innocence” seems to me to be strictly a matter of definition. Innocence as a legal term means cleared of charges or other under the law considered to be a free man who did not commit the crime that was alleged against him. On the other hand what one would consider “plain ol’ innocence” or actual innocence is where the person certainly didn’t do it, and not just that the court decided that they aren’t guilty.
The importance of DNA testing and storing is something that is addressed not only on the original innocence project’s website, but also on a number of state and regional websites. We all know that DNA is like a personal signature at a crime scene, and if they find your DNA in a place that you have no business being then you automatically become a suspect. What the general public may not fully understand however is that real DNA at real crime scenes does not look or talk like it does on our favorite crime shows like CSI. Sometimes the DNA evidence is contaminated, there isn’t enough of it to test, or there flat out isn’t any left behind. However, if we are sure to properly collect and preserve DNA and all other evidence of a crime scene, even if legal professionals choose not to test it for use at the trial then many years later it still has the potential to be tested. And this is exactly what these innocence projects do. In many cases of rape especially, where DNA evidence is almost always collected, these samples are very rarely tested due to the cost of processing them. These are the types of cases it is easiest for the innocence projects to get people exonerated. Because the evidence of either their certain conviction, or their innocence is right there.
It gets a bit more hairy when there is no DNA evidence to be tested, yet someone is still claiming their innocence. In these cases, what can you do to ensure that you’re not letting a guilty man free because he tells a convincing story. There is unfortunately not a lot that you can do for these people who are potentially innocent. In fact the original innocence project does not generally deal with cases that do not involve DNA evidence, and this is because even when you do send some prisoners who claim to be innocent and that they’re sure the DNA evidence will prove their innocence. Even part of the time these people are proven guilty, and they had to have known all along. So when you consider that, it’s very obvious to me why they would decide to simply say no to prisoners who don’t have any physical evidence to test because it’s just too high of a risk.

When you think of prison, you don't normally think about the idea of thousands of innocent people being wrongfully convicted and being locked up like caged animals that people think them to be, you only think of the true criminals that deserve to be locked up in prison. The thought of innocent people being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison sickens me and I feel their pain and the struggles they go through. I just feel so sorry for them. I would hate to be locked up in prison for a crime I KNOW I didn't commit but not be able to do a single thing about it, you have no control over what happens to you once you are behind prison walls. What the court says, goes when it comes to sentencing. Luckily, the discovery of DNA testing has saved a lot of innocent people that didn't deserve their punishment in the first place. This is where the Innocence Project comes into play.

The Innocence Project is known as a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, evidence, and reforming the legal system to prevent future injustice. One example of the fight to prevent future injustice is a case I found in one of the links listed above. The case of Michael Morton, a man who served 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, even though new found evidence proved that Michael did not commit the murder. So DNA testing was done and Michael Morton was exonerated. The cause of Michael Morton's conviction is all the doing of the prosecutor that was on the murder trial, former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson. Anderson is facing criminal contempt and tampering charges for withholding information that would have proven Michael Morton's innocence. This issue just goes to show that prosecutors make many errors when it comes to sentencing and that leads to the wrongful conviction of an innocent man. What I found interesting is what the court found out about Ken Anderson. The court made specific findings that Anderson indeed knew of evidence supporting Michael's innocence, but her intentionally withheld the evidence from the defense. Why would someone do that? Did Anderson have something held so strongly against Michael that he would tamper with the trial and cause Michael to be in prison for 25 years without Michael trying to prove his innocence?

I read through some of the case files through the Minnesota Innocence Project which I found to be interesting. Michael Hansen was wrongfully convicted for murdering his 3 month old daughter and served 6 months of a 14.5 year sentence before he was exonerated by the Minnesota Innocence Project. Hansen's Daughter's death was unexpected but it appeared she had died from a skull fracture she received from a fall out of a shopping cart six days before her death. The death was pinned on Hansen because his daughter was in his care at the time of her death. The Innocence Project re- opened the case and Hansen was exonerated when the State formally dismissed all charges against him. This is an instance when DNA evidence isn't used to exonerate cases. More research was done into the case and It became more clear as to what Hansen's daughter died from, so he shouldn't remain in prison for it.

The question coming up in my mind is "what is the importance of DNA evidence?" Obviously to exonerate innocent people, but DNA evidence has caused a huge change in the criminal justice system. DNA evidence has helped strengthen many trials to help put actual criminals behind bars. Its influence is so strong, it has re-opened several cases that have gone cold in the past few decades, because back then there wasn't the technology to do more thorough DNA testing. When all else fails, DNA is the go to evidence. We all know how important an eyewitness testimony is, but an eyewitness testimony can contain many errors, errors mostly due to the witness's memory but also errors in false confessions, snitches, improper forensics work, and of course the bad lawyer, like in Michael Morton's case I mentioned before. With the help of blood, semen, tooth pulp, saliva, or any other biological evidence is important to DNA evidence not only in exoneration but to solve other crimes. DNA evidence cannot lie, where as other forms of evidence can. The Innocence Project and DNA evidence together have helped exonerate over 306 cases, cases that go cold and fall through the cracks, never to be touched again, out of the thousands of letters the project receives from innocent people wanting to prove their innocence. I found it interesting that the Innocence Project is funded by donations and volunteers, who are willing to spend their time for this cause, considering society's perception to prisoners, innocent or not, until they have proof. Plus, DNA testing can get really expensive.

Overall I found the Innocence Project very interesting and it makes me feel better knowing that something is being done for the innocent people wasting their lives in prison because they get no say otherwise.

I was surprised it’s this far in the semester that this topic has come up, we’ve mentioned in on several occasions. We did just see an incredible example of this in Shawshank Redemption, so it does fit properly. However, I do remember that it was mentioned in the beginning of our class. In one of the early chapters in our textbook was about a woman who was raped and I believe it was in her apartment. I believe it said that she used the radio light and other small things in order to identify any features. When it came to the trial, (?) she was so sure that it was this particular man and he was sent to prison for a long time. In the book it showed both pictures of the man she sent to prison and the man that actually had done it. The man that had done it was in prison by the time the man who was wrongfully accused came to serve his sentence. I believe that they met and were talking about why they were both in there, and the truth came out. As far as I can remember the innocent man got out but, for what? After serving a partial sentence and coming out into the world, it’d be hard to make a life for yourself, even if you were exonerated.
The website said that there were about 300 cases exonerated. For me, that good but it makes me wonder how many more are out there that won’t be exonerated. If only 300 out of a countless number, there are going to be so many innocent people who spend the rest of their lives in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. I can’t believe that there are 300 cases that are exonerated, that many people have made mistakes that cost a person their future; their entire lives are now ruined. Why bother even leaving. Most of the time there isn’t anything left for somebody.
The website said, “of those who confessed: 14 had low IQs or developmental disabilities; 3 more (at least) were mentally ill and 13 were juveniles.” They all had waived their Miranda rights and the interrogation was only partially recorded. I don’t think the police officer should get to choose what parts should and shouldn’t be recorded. That just seems so CLEARLY wrong to be able to get away with in the legal system. I don’t like to hear that they are allowed to do that.
DNA evidence is extremely important to a case. They can use: saliva, blood, sperm, fingernails, tissue, bones, hair, etc. in order to identify who was at the crime scene. It gives clues in order for police to be able to catch the perpetrator. DNA is most important to those people who believe they are innocent. When it first became new to the legal system it was an insane find. In order to prove so many people innocent and give them what chance they do have after they’re freed. DNA meant so much to wrongly convicted people. They have a chance to redeem their innocence and freedom with merely testing body secretion. Cases in which there is absolutely no DNA are a tough case to try and get an appeal. If there isn’t any for them they simply just have to rely on the other evidence presented in their case in order to try and prove their innocence. Due to the fact that there is no DNA in some cases, there will be many people who are serving a sentence for something they did not do. Fortunately, some defendants get lucky and there are recordings or paper trails and files that mistakes made by public servants; which can lead to their exoneration. Although this may give them a better chance of proving their innocence, it’s still a tedious and difficult process.

Innocence
“Innocent Projects” – national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future reform. Is it strange that it has to come to an organization such as this to come in and correct the wrongfully accused and charged victims. Granted, people make mistakes, but as stated in the radio clip of “Perfect Evidence” over six feet tall of letters piled high that accumulate to over 11months worth of cases with inmates pleading their case, asking for help because they are innocent. Yes, we do know that some of those letters are from those who are guilty and know that they are guilty, but just trying to maybe get a second chance. But what about the many letters from prisoners who actually are innocent, asking for DNA evidence/ testing to be used to prove their innocence. There are four stories that I will explain that provide good evidence about the Innocent Projects being used. First is the brief story of Ken Anderson who, as a prosecutor, failed to turn over all evidence in a trial case. Second is a short story about a man accused, and charged for three rapes. And Finally, I will talk about the horrific story about a young fourteen year old boy who was forced to confess to his sister’s murder.
Starting off, Ken Anderson was a District Attorney at the Williamson County court. Ken was charged with criminal contempt and tampering with charges by not turning over evidence that would point out the innocence of the defendant, Michael Morton. Later the defendant was exonerated by the DNA evidence, but he had served twenty-five years for the charge of his wife’s murder. Once the DNA evidence was released, there was clear evidence to show that Ken knew of the evidence that supported Morton’s innocence, but failed to turn it over to the defense. Later, Ken was taken to the Williamson County jail for further processing with a bond of $2,500 for each felony count. This is a good example of how Project Innocence makes sure all evidence is used and shown in the case, and what can happen to those who do not play by the rules.
Next is the case of Dennis, who was wrongfully charged for the rape of three different women. He was sentence to life in prison when he then decided to write to the Innocence project pleading his innocence, and asking for their help. The organization demanded that the courts provide DNA evidence. At first they repeatedly asked for the biological evidence of Dennis to show that it was he that committed the rapes, but the courts could not find any. Finally the NEIP found the DNA and found that Dennis was innocent on all three rapes. Unfortunately, he had already served 19 years in prison. .
Lastly, this is the horrific case of fourteen year old boy who was forced to confess to the murder of his little sister. The evidence showed that there was no breaking and entering of the home, or forced break in. Initially, the investigators felt that murder had to be done by one of the family members. Fingers pointed to the boy. When they brought the young boy into the interrogation room they performed the usual manipulating techniques; good cop/bad cop, leading questions, lying about evidence that they never really had, etc. They used leading questions like why did you kill her, and how did you do it. Then they began lying about evidence that they found such as blood in the boys bedroom, and the knife that he initially used to kill his sister. When hearing the tape, you could just hear the fear in the boy’s voice, and I felt like you could just hear that he was innocent. They even used the stress test on his voice, saying that it was unbeatable and that it said that he was lying. Overall, I found this story heartbreaking. Yes, the boy was eventually found innocent, but how do you think that the rest of that boy’s life will be like?

Overall, my thoughts on the fact that there are many people that we know and can assume are in prison is shameful towards the legal system. I believe that working as an investigator and interrogating people would be the worst job to have. You think you’re just doing your job and following the rules, but there are times when I think that people forget that a human’s life is at stake, and that they have the possibility to end it. I feel that in regards to why there are so many innocent people in jail is that investigators, jury members, and even judges make decisions based on their personal experiences, biases, and hardships that they may be currently facing or have faced. I feel that once investigators being to take their position and to just think of it as a “job”, they lose sight of what’s right, and just shoot for numbers, and how many cases they “allegedly” cracked. The old term, “your innocent until proven guilty” I feel should be basically thrown out. With the numerous mistakes that go on in convicting and sentencing people is outrageous. I feel that actual innocence means that you know you’re innocent, and you actually did not commit a crime. “Plan ol’ innocence on the other hand, is whether the courts find you innocent. You could be the biggest serial killer, rapist, abductor, etc. and if there is not enough evidence, or testimonies against you, you could be found not guilty! That’s why DNA evidence is so important, it trumps over almost all other evidence presented. It even trumps over a forced “confession”. It is unfortunate for cases that do not or simply doesn’t have DNA to present as evidence. In cases like that, there is a high risk of wrongfully convicting an innocent man or woman. That is why it is so crucial for investigators to thoroughly look at all the details, and finish their reports, and investigations before conviction.

Reading the book, Picking Cotton, was my first eye opener on the subject on innocent people in prison. This true story of Ronald Cotton is one of disbelief and heartbreak. He served 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, until DNA proof exonerated him and shocked everyone involved in the case. Stories on the Innocence Project website were similar – innocent people wasting away their lives in prison. The Innocence Project is a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners through DNA testing. They are striving to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions, and plays a role in nearly 75% of convictions that are overturned through DNA testing. This just adds to our existing knowledge how unreliable eyewitness testimonies can be. In the other 25% of DNA exoneration cases, false confessions play a role. Confessions are not always given because of actual guilt, but rather can be prompted by external influences such as interrogators. Whether it resulted from investigators forcing a false confession, or false eyewitness testimonies, a flaw in the conviction process changed these victim’s lives in a way they will never get back. This is a scary concept. Even now that we have the technology of tracing DNA, some cases do not contain any. This means there are additional people in prison that don’t have the advantage of being proven innocent by DNA. Experts estimate that DNA testing is possible in only 5-10% of all criminal cases. What’s worse, in some cases where DNA is available, it is disregarded and then disposed of. As of April 24th, 2013, 306 innocent people have been exonerated from prison. We can only speculate that this is a fraction of innocent people who still reside in prison right now. Thousands of letters from prisoners are reviewed every year, pleading for a chance to look into their case and find a way to prove their innocence. At any time, there could be 6,000 to 8,000 cases that need to be reviewed. Of course, it is probably true that most prisoners claim innocence as we saw in Shawshank Redemption. But if we know that over 300 prisoners were actually innocent, it seems just to consider there are more.

DNA is biological evidence in the form of blood, saliva, semen, skin cells, or hair follicles. DNA can be extracted from these forms, analyzed, and potentially matched to a specific person. In the cases of exoneration, the DNA needs to simply not match the accused person, to prove they are innocent. This is the most reliable and most common way to prove innocence. Actual innocence is innocence that can be proven. This means the case contains DNA, paperwork, videos, recordings, etc. that can actually prove innocence. These are the cases that get attention, time, and money in order to find that innocence. The Innocence Project does take on rare cases that do not contain DNA. They believe these cases and wrongly accused individuals are just as important and do what they can to help. In some of these cases, strong evidence of innocence is discovered during the search for biological evidence, and they are able to secure individual’s freedom without DNA testing. Plain ol’ innocence seems more like the claims made in Shawshank Redemption. Many criminals claim they are innocent, and we can either believe or not believe them, but we will never know until actual proof gives them actual innocence.

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Welcome to Psychology & Law!
Familiarize yourself with the blog. You'll quickly notice that all of your assignments are listed here in chronological order.…
Using Movies
In time for Thursday's, please read the following link: http://www.psychologicalscience.com/kim_maclin/2010/01/i-learned-it-at-the-movies.html  as well as the 3 resource links at the…
Book Selection
There are several options for you to choose from to do your book report. They are: Lush Life, The…