It’s easy to see the criminal justice system as a monolith of police officers and courts that can do no wrong. And in a perfect world, this would be the truth. But the reality is that no system is perfect and, when the criminal justice system makes a mistake, it’s often at the expense of those wrongfully accused of a crime.
Guilty until proven innocent
In the past 30 years, nearly 3,000 people have been exonerated of crimes for which they were convicted. Each one of these individuals was charged with a crime they did not commit, convicted and sentenced by a court as punishment. But it was not they who failed society – it was the criminal justice system that failed them.
According to this report, one Oregon man spent eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He lost his home and his family and, when his conviction was overturned, he left prison with nothing.
Another man, from Georgia, was sent to prison when he was 19 years old for a murder he did not commit. He was 48 when DNA evidence exonerated him and he once again became a free man.
Not all evidence brought against an accused is equal. It must be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure it is reliable. Eye-witness testimony is particularly prone to inaccuracy and is frequently the cause of a wrongful conviction.
A fair trial
If you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a fair trial. Fairness includes competent evidence judged impartially by a jury of your peers. You also have the right to contest that evidence and be represented by an experienced, competent attorney. You need someone in your corner before the criminal justice system has the chance to make another mistake.