Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Book Exposes "Painful Errors in the American Judicial System"

New Jersey's Daily Record headlined "DNA Tests Clear Man in Parsippany Rape Case." Two days later local and national news outlets including AOL and Fox news ran the story, "Man Who Spent 28 Years in Prison Cleared by DNA Testing." This comes on the heels of the Dallas, Texas man who was freed after serving 27 years in prison for wrongful conviction of committing aggravated rape.

Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project reports that in the United States, since 1989 "there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were arrested or indicted - until DNA testing (prior to trial) proved that they were wrongly accused."

The Innocence Project notes general causes for wrongful convictions to be: suspect misidentification by eyewitnesses, not-validated or improper forensic science findings, false confessions, misconduct by government officials, poor representation by the accused person's attorney or/and testimony from informants, including people government officials give lighter sentences to in exchange for fingering another person.

Research News, Exonerate, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the national Innocence Project are a few of the organizations that are working to examine the functioning of the justice system as well as present facts and data to American citizens and persons who are wrongfully convicted and their family members. Spiral (http://www.chistell.com) is a book that deals with the impact of wrongful conviction from inception to conclusion.

Spiral's author, Denise Turney, is an African American woman who grew up in urban neighborhoods throughout the United States. About Spiral she states, "Understanding the dynamics behind a wrongful conviction is crucial to understanding why this painful judicial event continues to happen. Spiral examines the life of a man, Richard, who is convicted of a murder starting from the man's childhood. Richard's fictional account extends from the 1940s into the 1980s. Wrongfully convicted persons have gained inspiration and empowerment through reading this detailed fictional account of a wrongful conviction that forever changed a small Tennessee town."

"Numbers show that, for the most part, the American judicial system does work. However, gaps in the system need to be addressed and rectified. Prison and assumed guilt," Turney continues, "Particularly when both are accompanied by attack and blame from hundreds, thousands or even millions of onlookers, changes a person forever. People tend to convict an accuser even before a trial is held. There is a wealth of confidence placed in the judicial system and this after years of revealed cases where an informant, judge, attorney, police officer or other government official or allowed bias or self-interest to sway a case."

"Increased focus on wrongful convictions by the public can push government agencies to examine current legal and judicial processes, identify gaps and take necessary to bridge those gaps. This, in turn, can yield cost savings and most importantly, it can save individuals and families tremendous psychological, physically, financial and social hardships and pain," Turney concludes.

Original report here

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