Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Predicting Erroneous Convictions

53 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2013 Last revised: 30 Sep 2014

Jon B Gould

American University - School of Public Affairs; American University - Washington College of Law

Julia Carrano

American University

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Katie Hail-Jares

American University

Date Written: March 1, 2013

Abstract

The last thirty years have seen an enormous increase not only in the exonerations of innocent defendants but also academic scholarship on erroneous convictions. This literature has identified a number of common factors that appear frequently in erroneous conviction cases, including forensic error, prosecutorial misconduct, false confessions, and eyewitness misidentification. However, without a comparison or control group of cases, researchers risk labeling these factors as “causes” of erroneous convictions when they may be merely correlates. This article reports results from the first large scale empirical research project to compare wrongful convictions with other innocence cases in which the defendant escaped conviction (so-called “near misses”). Employing statistical methods and an expert panel, the research helps us to understand how the criminal justice system identifies innocent defendants in order to prevent erroneous convictions. In another first, the research secured the cooperation of practitioners from multiple sides of the criminal justice system, including the national Innocence Project, the Police Foundation, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the National District Attorneys Association. The results highlight ten factors that distinguish wrongful convictions from near misses, but the larger story is one of system failure in which the protections of the criminal justice system operate in a counterintuitive manner. The article closes with a series of policy reforms to address these failings.

Keywords: wrongful conviction, erroneous conviction, prosecutorial misconduct, false confessions, eyewitness misidentification, criminal law, criminal procedure

Suggested Citation

Gould, Jon B and Carrano, Julia and Leo, Richard A. and Hail-Jares, Katie, Predicting Erroneous Convictions (March 1, 2013). 99 Iowa Law Review 471 (2014).; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2013-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2231740

Jon B Gould (Contact Author)

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Julia Carrano

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Katie Hail-Jares

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
403
Rank
60,009
Abstract Views
2,088