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I Am A Free Man

A 46-page report was released by Innocent Project in the United States in relation with 200 offenders had exonerated from prison with the help of DNA (Innocent Project, 2013). All of them are proven innocent through DNA testing applications after they were found guilty by the jury.

Innocence Project that started in 1992 has proven that a conviction without scientific evidences can be disputed. It is also proven that the application of DNA testing is significant for the convicts to retrial.

Are there possible that still many more innocent individuals imprisoned?No one really knows the answer to that question. This is because the technique of DNA testing is an expensive technique. Although this technique has been introduced to the world, it is not used in the police investigation in the early days due to the cost.

Furthermore, if the DNA evidence is still exist and in a small quantity, it is easily lost and destroyed with time. Without the evidence, not every individual could claim a retrial.

Why is wrong conviction happen?

Based on the observations of Michael Naughton (Naughton, 2006) a law lecturer at the University of Bristol, England, he had pointed out that the criminal trial is not really based on the facts to prove a person is guilty or not. What happen is that they determine whether the accused is guilty or not guilty in court based on the evidences presented (Griffith, 2006).

The main evidence that carry weight is the criminal admission or confession. If a person had admitted to the crime and his plea was documented by the investigating officer, it will shorten the trial. The accused would be punished.

But, what happen to the presentation of other relevant evidence? Is DNA testing conducted for these types of cases? If it was done, how long will the results be ready? How about the credibility and reliability of the witness testimony?

Here are some of the factors that could contribute to wrong conviction (Innocent Project, 2013):

  1. Eyewitness Credibility

    According to the statistics released by Innocent Project, about 75 percent of wrongful conviction cases occur due to the evidence of the witnesses. In fact, there are some researches stated that witnesses sometimes are unreliable because their statements may be made for a lot of reasons.

    Furthermore, the human brain is not like a tape recorder that can store memory and can be accessed at any time. Human tend to forget things. It happens in a lot of situations. It can also occurs when giving evidence.

  2. False confessions or admissions

    False confession during police interrogations can occur in some circumstances defined by factors below:

    • Intimidation
    • Coercion
    • The accused was drunk during the session
    • The accused is having mental problems due to stress
    • Ignorance of the law
    • The threat of greater punishment
    • The accused do not understand the real situation
  3. Reliability of the results of analyses and its methodology

    The development in the field of forensic analysis is taking place all around the world. Investigators and organizations were introduced to the significance of forensic analysis techniques in solving the crime.

    However, the reliability of the results produced is still questionable. The fact is, no matter how great a method of analysis and the technology used in the investigation, the human factor remains the great factor in delivering the good results.

    Some aspects that often form the basis to the wrong convictions to the accused are as follows:

    • The testimonials are weak due to competency issues.

      A decision should be attributed to the method of analysis and the accuracy. The lack of training and exposure to sufficient number of cases may cause the analyst or scientist fails to carry out the analysis properly.

      Therefore, his testimony during the trial can cause doubt to the juries and can easily be challenged.

    • Forensic analysts make mistakes

      During analyses, mistakes could happen without realizing it. Some errors can also happen during preparing the report of the analysis.

      A mistake in placing a decimal point could give a great impact to the victim and also the accused.

      For example, if a decimal point was not placed in a report of the weight of ice (syabu) weighed 32.5 grams in the laboratory; it will be read as 325 grams of ice during the trial. The accused will face a death penalty.

In addition, standardization of the testing methods and the report of analyses around the world are necessary to obtain the accurate and precise results that cannot be questioned.

In this situation, the use of DNA analysis is important as one of the methods of investigation to establish the truth. It proved to a total of 310 ex-prisoners who have been released until today (Innocent Project, 2013).

Reference

  1. Griffith, G. (2006, 08). NSW PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY RESEARCH SERVICES. Retrieved 07 08, 2013, from http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/0/78687da75a8a712fca2571d50016502f/$FILE/DNA%20EvidenceFINAL&INDEX.pdf
  2. Innocence Project. (2013, 07 09). Innocence Project. Retrieved 07 09, 2013, from http://www.innocenceproject.org/
  3. Naughton, M. (2006). Web Journal of Current Legal Issues. Retrieved 07 08, 2013, from http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/2006/issue3/naughton3.html
Last Reviewed : 17 October 2013
Writer : Khairul Adli b. Nikman