The Importance of Preventing Wrongful Convictions
There is no question that one of the most important jobs of criminal defense attorneys is to protect people’s constitutional rights, and this includes preventing wrongful convictions. This is especially the case given that the death penalty is often applied when it comes to murder convictions; warranting a speedy exoneration.
What Has Led To The Problem
According to the statistics, poor forensic evidence, false accusations and confessions, mistaken identity and identification by witnesses, misconduct, perjury, and racial bias are some of the factors that have sent many innocent people to prison; more so in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Approximately 90 percent of all prisoners exonerated were men, with black men representing approximately 50 percent of this total. These wrongful convictions covered everything from drug offenses to murder.
In 2017, Florida implemented two new criminal justice reforms geared towards reducing eyewitness misidentification that lead to a number of innocent people being sent to prison here in Florida. Close to 40 percent of exonerated individuals were wrongfully convicted due to false eyewitness identification up until that point.
And those numbers are growing: According to the national registry, exonerations have exploded just in the last 30 years; in part due to mistakes in identifying drugs (i.e. defective field test kits), an increase in DNA testing and greater prosecutorial accountability. DNA tests in particular have reportedly been responsible for one-fourth of all exonerations in America just in the last 30 years and more than half of all exonerations involved overcoming false accusations and/or perjury; usually in cases of child sex abuse and homicide. In addition, a significant percentage of sexual assault allegations by black men on white women involved faulty witness identification.
There have been approximately 165 former death-row prisoners exonerated in the U.S. just since 1973; 29 of which were wrongfully convicted, sentenced, and then exonerated in Florida, which is the highest in the nation. According to reports, in 21 of those exonerations, judges imposed the death penalty by overriding a jury recommendation for life or a non-unanimous death verdict. As a result, Florida now mandates a unanimous jury verdict before a judge is allowed to impose a death sentence.
Compensation For Wrongful Conviction
At the same time that exonerations are increasing, so is compensation paid to those wrongfully convicted: Florida, for example, is supposed to compensate individuals $50,000 for every stolen year, however, there are a number of obstacles that those wrongfully convicted have to overcome before they can receive this money.
Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys
Do not risk wrongful conviction here in Florida—the consequences are dire. Contact our experienced Miami and Orlando civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.