Voices on Innocence
25 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 14, 2016
In the summer of 2015, experts gathered from around the country to sit together and discuss one of the most pressing and important issues facing the American criminal justice system – innocence. Innocence is an issue that pervades various areas of research and influences numerous topics of discussion. What does innocence mean, particularly in a system that differentiates between innocence and acquittal at sentencing? What is the impact of innocence during plea bargaining? How should we respond to growing numbers of exonerations? What forces lead to the incarceration of innocents? Has an innocent person been put to death and, if so, what does this mean for capital punishment? As these and other examples demonstrate, the importance and influence of the innocence issue is boundless. As the group, representing various perspectives, disciplines, and areas of research, discussed these and other questions, it also considered the role of innocence in the criminal justice system more broadly and examined where the innocence issue might take us in the future.
This article is a collection of short essays from some of those in attendance - essays upon which we might reflect as we continue to consider the varying sides and differing answers to the issue of innocence. Through these diverse and innovative essays, the reader is able to glimpse the larger innocence discussion that occurred in the summer of 2015. As was the case at the roundtable event, the ideas expressed in these pages begins a journey into an issue with many faces and many paths forward for discussion, research, and reform.
Keywords: innocence, plea bargain, factual innocence, exoneration, wrongful conviction, evidence, experts, prosecutors, accountability, punishment, restorative justice
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation