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Toward a New Paradigm of Criminal Justice: How the Innocence Movement Merges Crime Control and Due Process

42 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009  

Keith A. Findley

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: January 2009


In the criminal justice system we have become accustomed to thinking in terms of a conflict between society's interest in convicting the guilty and the rights of criminal defendants. This conflict is perhaps best captured by Herbert Packer's competing Crime Control and Due Process Models of criminal justice. In recent years, postconviction DNA testing and other forms of new evidence have exposed a surprisingly large number of wrongful convictions of factually innocent people. The resulting Innocence Movement has pushed for reforms to reduce the rate of factual error. Those efforts have caused some to ask if we can indeed convict fewer innocents without acquitting too many guilty people. That question is premised on a paradigm of competing goals, such as those posited by Packer's two models. This article responds to that question in two ways. First, it suggests that the question, at least to a large degree, is the wrong question to ask under our constitutional system. Our constitutional system chooses protecting the innocent as a highest-order value, which preferences innocence protection over convicting wrongdoers. Second, confronting the question on its own terms, it suggests that the answer is yes, we can reduce the number of wrongful convictions without sacrificing too many convictions of the guilty. Indeed, the Innocence Movement shows that those goals are not inherently contradictory; rather, they are quite complementary. In this sense, the Innocence Movement alters our understanding of the criminal justice system by giving us a new paradigm - a Reliability Model based on best practices - which supplants and transcends the competing Crime Control and Due Process Models.

Keywords: DNA, innocence, crime control, due process, wrongful conviction, eyewitness identification, false confessions, jailhouse snitch, informant

JEL Classification: K14, K30, K42

Suggested Citation

Findley, Keith A., Toward a New Paradigm of Criminal Justice: How the Innocence Movement Merges Crime Control and Due Process (January 2009). Texas Tech Law Review, January 2009; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1069. Available at SSRN:

Keith A. Findley (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-4763 (Phone)
608-263-3380 (Fax)


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