The Causes of Wrongful Convictions

Paul House entered a brave new world in 2008. House had served 22 years in prison for the 1986 murder of Carolyn Muncey in Tennessee, and the world had gone on without him.

House had received the death sentence upon his murder conviction, after nearly everything went wrong with his defense, including misconduct by the prosecution, mishandled evidence, incorrect DNA test results and police officers who were in a rush to convict House. After he was finally exonerated, Paul House was in frail health and had difficulty readjusting to a society that had moved on without him.

By the time Paul House was exonerated in 2008, release from prison. He was in frail health and had not received proper treatment for his multiple sclerosis, and there was a lot of catching up to do. To date, he is permanently bound to a wheelchair and has trouble communicating and gathering his thoughts. His condition is a direct result of not receiving adequate health care while incarcerated.

Wrongful convictions are more common than they should be

The case of Paul House is not an anomaly. According to a report released by the University of Ohio, as many as 10,000 Americans are wrongly convicted and sent to prison every year. C. Ronald Huff, author of Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy and director of the Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State University, states that wrong identification by eyewitnesses is the biggest reason for wrongful convictions. Of the nearly 2 million people who are convicted of a serious crime every year, at least half of 1 percent are truly innocent, according to Huff.

DNA evidence has cleared 268 wrongly convicted people since 268. While DNA is not the only evidence used to overturn convictions — many crimes do not involve DNA evidence — it provides fairly conclusive Proof of a person’s innocence. When DNA is not a factor, convicted persons have been exonerated through lack of evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, misconduct on the part of the police or prosecutors, and witnesses recanting testimony.

If you find yourself wrongfully convicted of a crime in Illinois, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

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