Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know that unfortunately, there are many opportunities for the criminal justice system to not work the way it is supposed to.
This should be of particular concern to those facing felony charges, as the chances that they may be convicted of a crime they did not commit are greater when they don’t or can’t invest in a skilled defense attorney.
This issue was recently highlighted in a collaborative study by two universities. The results of their research showed that in the past 23 years, at least 2,000 people in the U.S. have been exonerated of crimes for which they were convicted.
What’s especially troubling about this figure is that we know the number of those who are actually innocent is much higher. This is just the number that the researchers identified as having been cleared of their alleged crimes. There are countless more still sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit.
A closer look at the data also reveals some additional troubling trends, specifically with regard to race. First, it was noted that in about 1,200 cases, researchers didn’t have much information, beyond the basic fact that the individual had been exonerated.
On the other hand, of more than 870 cases for which they did have more information, defendants in those cases had spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison. On average, that worked out to 11 years, though for many, it was much higher.
What’s more, 90 percent of those individuals were black.
About half of the cases involved a murder charge, with an eighth of those being death-penalty cases. And more than a third involved charges of sexual assault.
In a large number of cases, it was DNA evidence that eventually cleared these individuals.
There are an additional 1,200 cases that aren’t included at all in the research, even though they were thrown out in the course of various police scandals across the country, revealing that officers had planted guns or drugs on defendants who were actually innocent.
What is so incredibly disturbing about all this, from a criminal defense attorney’s point-of-view, is that the system failed – and failed many, many times. With approximately 1 million felony convictions in the U.S. every year, this is ample opportunity for critical mistakes.
That’s why having an experienced attorney is critical if you’re facing criminal charges.
But what are some of the mistakes that occur?
They run the gamut. As we mentioned earlier, the issue may not have been an error at all, but rather an intentional plant.
More often, however, it involves eye witness testimony. In these cases, the witness either intentionally misleads or lies or they are simply mistaken. The latter scenario was the case for four out of five sexual assault convictions that were later proven to be inaccurate.
If you are facing criminal charges in Broward or Palm Beach counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.