Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Canada takes hard look at innocence cases

At least somebody's thinking hard about how to prevent convictions of innocent people. Via CrimProf blog, the Canadian government just released a major report on "miscarriages of justice," with a chapter apiece on the major causes of convicting innocent people worldwide. "What is startling," the report found, "is that some problems, themes and mistakes arise time and time again, regardless of where the miscarriage of justice took place." According to the report, those are:
  • tunnel vision
  • mistaken eyewitness identification and testimony
  • false confessions
  • in-custody informers
  • DNA evidence
  • forensic evidence and expert testimony
  • education
That's nearly precisely the set of issues swirling about numerous false conviction cases in Texas, according to testimony at a recent Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing in Houston. The Canadian report is here, news coverage is here. Also, see ACLU of Texas' suggestions to the Senate committee for fixing some of these problems, and a House Research Organization report (pdf) on possible reforms in the area of forensic science, which has contributed to false convictions in several Texas cases.

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