If you are an avid Netflix streaming fan, there is a strong chance you have watched “Making a Murderer.” The show has been deemed one of most captivating crime dramas of the year. The series uncovers the case of Steven Avery, a man from Wisconsin who served almost two decades behind bars for sexual assault and attempted murder. When new evidence came to light, he was exonerated in 2003.
While the series is on television, the wrongful conviction in the Avery case mirrors some of the existing weaknesses that are habitually present in our criminal justice system.
Eyewitness Misidentifications. Eyewitness misidentification is probably the biggest reason for wrongful convictions in the United States. Research suggests that the human mind does not record events exactly as it sees them. We do not have the ability to “rewind” our thoughts and recall incidents precisely how they occurred. Instead, witness identifications and memory must be preserved and protected; if recall is not retrieved methodically, this “evidence” could be damaged.
Faulty Scientific Methods. Forensic testing methods have been used in criminal cases with little validation from science. We have always struggled to understand the significance of such tests, as well as the reliability of utilized methods. For this reason, it is common for forensic analysts to testify in cases without a solid scientific basis for any findings. This is certainly problematic.
False Confessions. You may think an innocent person would never confess to a crime; however, this is not the case. Innocent defendants make incriminating statements and admit to crimes all the time. Suspects of all ages, races and ethnicities have succumbed to the pressures of interrogation. Nevertheless, in all false confession occurrences, it seems as though confessing to the crime appears to be more beneficial to the suspect than maintaining one’s innocence.
Misconduct in the Government. In some cases, government officials take steps to guarantee that a particular defendant is found guilty. In the form of misconduct, authorities might “fudge” evidence to secure what they believe is a guilty verdict. The Avery case thoroughly explores this issue.
Snitches. Many suspects have been wrongfully convicted in criminal matters because of snitching. This is when a person is paid to make a statement or receives some sort of benefit in exchange for testimony that points to the suspect’s guilt. Surprisingly, the incentive or deal for testimony is often not disclosed to the jury. This is true even when the information is a main reason for the conviction.
Poor Legal Representation. Public defenders are overworked. This can lead to lapses in the investigation, faulty preparation and poor trial execution. Unfortunately, the public system does not always have the resources and support for a fair trial.
If you are facing criminal charges, do not let the shortcomings and limitations of today’s criminal system put you behind bars. The Avery case may have been in Wisconsin, but these issues are very real — even in St. Louis. Speak with criminal law attorney about how to strengthen your case.