November 27, 2012

Lawmakers Need to Heed the Lessons of Wrongful Conviction

11-27-2012 Virginia:

Last week Virginia’s Governor and the state’s Attorney General scrambled to find a legal way to release Jonathan Montogmery from prison after his accuser admitted the sexual assault—for which he had served four years—never happened. The Washington Post railed against “balky officials in Richmond who will not move off the dime to free him” in a published opinion (here). However, the editorial also properly identified the “root problem”: Virginia’s 21-day rule.

In states across the country existing laws indicate an unacceptable lack of awareness or concern over the lessons of wrongful conviction.

Our justice system’s commitment to finality paired with tough-on-crime public sentiment contributed to establishing hurdles to post-conviction review of criminal cases. However, more than 1,000 U.S. exonerations—most hard-won in a resistant legal environment—should call into question laws or procedures that place impediments to legitimate efforts to obtain the truth in worthy cases.

Many procedures, laws, and policies are based on myths that wrongful convictions have debunked. For example, laws denying compensation to innocents wrongfully convicted because they confessed ignores what we now know about false confessions. Under certain conditions, many now discredited (such as interrogations lasting eight times the average interrogation of two hours), innocent people do confess to crimes they did not commit. Therefore, a false confession should not be used to deny compensation. Some of the conditions leading to a false confession arguably would be justification for more compensation! ...continued... by Nancy Petro

No comments: