Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Conviction

At UCLA this weekend, attendees at the Faces of Wrongful Conviction Conference, got to hear first hand from those whom the system in California failed.

One by one they ascended the stage and introduced themselves, each an embodiment of the legal system's fallibility in California. My name is Herman Atkins," a tall ponytailed man said. "The state of California stole 12 years of my life for a rape and robbery I did not commit in Riverside."

"Good morning, my name is Gloria Killian," a well-spoken middle-aged woman said. "The state stole 22 years of my life for a robbery and murder I did not commit in Sacramento." "Good morning. My name is Ken Marsh," a third speaker said. "The state took 21 years of my life for a murder I did not commit in San Diego in 1983."

Seventeen people in all reiterated the point to a packed ballroom at UCLA on Saturday: that although they now were free, countless other innocent people are imprisoned in the state. ...They took part in the event, called "The Faces of Wrongful Conviction," to dramatize the flaws in the state's criminal justice system.

Who are they and what caused their wrongful convictions?

There were whites, African Americans, Latinos, an Asian American and a Native American.

....Summaries of their cases indicate they were victims of such problems as inaccurate eyewitness identifications, unreliable jailhouse informants, the failure of police and prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence and faulty forensics.

Our criminal justice system is flawed. We need to fix it. When the innocent get convicted, the guilty go free.

From the Factsheet (pdf):

  • Across the country, 123 people have been exonerated and released from death row since 1973.
  • The average time spent in prison by persons who were sentenced to death and later found to be wrongfully convicted is nine years.
  • There are approximately 650 current death row inmates in California. Since 1981, six people have been freed from death row as a result of proven wrongful convictions.
  • A 2004 study of over 30 cases of wrongful conviction in California indicates that African Americans have been wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than people of other races and that the majority of wrongful convictions occur in just a few counties

The primary causes of wrongful convictions:

The three primary causes of wrongful conviction are:
* False and unreliable evidence
* Illegal conduct and serious errors by police and prosecutors
* Lack of adequate defense
Furthermore, these factors rarely operate in isolation.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Northwestern University School of Law identifies four types of false or unreliable evidence:

  • False testimony by informant or "snitch" witnesses
  • Incorrect eyewitness identification
  • False confessions
  • False or unreliable forensic evidence or "junk science"


Larger version

More information is available at The Innocence Project.

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    Re: Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Con (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 08:58:22 AM EST
    This happens far too often. I'd say we are not letting enough guilty people go free if so many innocents are being chained. Somethings broken.

    Re: Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Con (none / 0) (#2)
    by HK on Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 10:32:53 AM EST
    I only hope that people still find this shocking. I sometimes wonder if wrongful convictions are so commonplace that people don't even notice anymore. Or maybe they are an accepted flaw of the justice system. I'm sure that some people think, 'well, there are bound to be innocent people convicted, but as long as most of them are guilty...' People need to wake up to this problem. Wrongful convictions ruin lives and do everybody a disservice.

    Re: Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Con (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 11:05:33 AM EST
    Many people are still so conditioned and unable to see outside the box of the consensual reality they were brought up in, and still so averse to questioning authority, that they just assume that if someone is charged with a crime that they must be guilty. Or they wouldn't have been charged in the first place...

    To the best of my understanding, I find it tragic that our system is based on providing "due process" as opposed to "justice". We really should just rename the DOJ to the DODP for honesty's sake.

    I'd bet Nancy Grace still thinks those who were found innocent are still guilty. That's one big scam going on right there prosecutors or "former" prosecutors being able to sway public opinion outside the courtroom and being paid to do so.

    Re: Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Con (none / 0) (#6)
    by Johnny on Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 04:49:26 PM EST
    And still some DP supporters adamantly claim that no innocent person has been murdered by the state.

    Re: Hello, My Name Is....The Faces of Wrongful Con (none / 0) (#7)
    by orionATL on Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 08:46:41 AM EST
    so when are the lawyers, in this case prosecutors, and the police going to be held accountable for their misconduct. misconduct like this is unforgiveably harmful to the individual (and his/her family) who has been wrongfuly imprisoned. it is also causing great harm to the system of justice in this country. the crooked presecutor/policeman/judge is now a staple of our culture. i have yet to hear of a prosector who has been charged, tried, or diciplined for misconduct. the "oh, well I made a mistake. we all do" defense is no where near good enough. and yes there is the terrroist presecutor in detroit (?) but his case has about it a bit of the tinge of revenge and betrayal by his political bosses at doj in washington, though that may not be trhe case.

    Having been wrongfully prosecuted I can say a partial solution would be to make the loser of the trial pay costs. Its that part of life when even doing everything right gets you popped. I suppose I'll feel the chill up my spine forever.