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Opinion: Statistics on falsely convicted defendants truly alarming

The advocacy group Innocence Project, which seeks to exonerate innocent persons of crimes for which they have been convicted and imprisoned, states that as many as five percent of all incarcerated persons in the county are wrongfully locked up.

Even taking the project's lower and more conservative estimate of 2.3 percent, it is possible that at least 50,000 people across the country have been falsely convicted and locked away on federal charges and for various state crimes.

That is a "remarkable conclusion", states writer John Lash in an opinion piece produced for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, a media publication that discusses the criminal justice system, focusing most acutely on juvenile justice and related matters.

Lash also says it is one “that deserves more attention,” which certainly seems to be the case if the cited incarceration rate for innocent people is even remotely accurate.

One case that the op-ed article notes involves the murder of a Missouri reporter in 2005. A 17-year-old juvenile male was convicted of the crime, based on testimony offered by two people who later admitted that they perjured themselves. The defendant has always proclaimed his innocence.

One of the persons who testified against the defendant was a friend who stated that the murder became clear to him through dreams, even though he earlier said he had forgotten about it. A janitor who positively identified the defendant as the killer told investigators early on in the case that he couldn’t make any positive identification. Three years later he could.

Lash states that true justice requires close scrutiny of every case where a conviction has resulted in a person’s wrongful imprisonment.

That view is certainly not exceptional, but, rather, a mainstay belief for any person who advocates fundamental fairness in the criminal justice system.

Source: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, "Op-Ed: The U.S. wrongfully incarcerates more than 50,000 citizens," John Lash, Oct. 4, 2013

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