Introduction to the Symposium on Wrongful Convictions: Issues of Science, Evidence and Innocence
5 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2007
It is hard to imagine an injustice greater than the incarceration or, worse yet, execution of an innocent. Especially in our system of justice, which purports to accept as a basic premise that it is better that ten guilty go free than that one innocent person be imprisoned, the incarceration of an innocent is simply intolerable. Yet it happens--and much more often than we would like to believe. Questions abound as to why and what can be done about it. The problem of wrongful convictions has been discussed for some time, but it has often been rejected or downplayed. It was only the advent of DNA technology, which makes it possible to definitively demonstrate that a person did not commit the crime for which he or she is incarcerated, that has forced doubters to acknowledge that wrongful convictions actually do occur. Unfortunately, the incidence of wrongful conviction is almost impossible to determine, because DNA evidence is not available in a large majority of cases. There is reason to believe, however, that the number of wrongfully convicted individuals should cause us to have real concern about how the criminal justice system is functioning. The problem of wrongful convictions must be addressed on several fronts. First, we must get a better understanding of what leads to such convictions in order to determine what can be done to remedy them. Next, we must find ways to identify those cases in which wrongful convictions have occurred and means by which to prove innocence and secure the inmate's release. Finally, it is crucially important that we focus as well on the larger, systemic issues to prevent such injustices from occurring. The articles in this Symposium cover many facets of wrongful convictions and do so in an interdisciplinary fashion. They span the geographic spectrum as well, with articles focusing on Missouri issues, as well as issues of national and international significance.
Keywords: Wrongful conviction, Innocence, Innocent, Imprisonment, Incarceration, DNA, Crime, Evidence, Death penalty
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K40, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation