A study conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations uncovered a disturbing trend relating to the cases of individuals wrongfully convicted of a crime that landed them time in prison. The study focused on determining the role prosecutors and police officers played in these situations. Researchers determined that misconduct on the part of officers in Virginia and other parts of the country that include falsifying evidence, conducting violent or intimidating interrogations, and tampering with witnesses is a direct cause in the majority of wrongful conditions.
The research evaluated case history for 2,400 convictions that would eventually become overturned. The cases took place over 30 years, and the findings mirror complaints that lawyers responsible for devising criminal defense strategies have lodged for longer that. More than half of these cases involved misconduct from both prosecutors and police. Another 35 percent involved misconduct by police officers alone.
The findings by the Registry come at a time when protests are ongoing across the nation in response to the May 25th death of a black suspect after a police officer kneeled on his neck. The officers with direct involvement with this case all suffered arrest.
The concern in most cases where prosecutor and police misconduct results in a wrongful conviction is that often this conduct is never known outside of the exclusive circle of individuals that are involved. One law professor working for the University of Michigan explains this fact makes it unlikely for people wrongfully convicted of a serious crime to enjoy the revealing of the truth.
The professor points out that all police officers are not part of the misconduct. However, the professor says it happens with disturbing regularity.
Hiding evidence that would benefit a defendant is the most common offense committed by officers and prosecutors in cases of wrongful convictions. One case observed by the Registry involved a woman convicted of killing her husband despite a medical report confirming he committed suicide.
Mounting a successful defense against criminal allegations is always an uphill battle. But this battle becomes a lot more difficult to win when police officers and prosecutors do not play fair. An experienced criminal defense attorney is likely the best bet for a defendant in a criminal case who is concerned about protecting his or her right to a fair trial.