What does it mean to be wrongfully convicted? It means "Persons who are in fact innocent but who have been wrongly convicted by a jury or other court of law." Wrongful convictions happen every day. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, the number of wrongfully convicted men and women climb every year.
The state that tried and convicted Edward Meiggs has a dark reputation for incarcerating innocent people and years later letting them free because of legal error, prosecutorial misconduct, or barred DNA evidence that would have proven innocence. Two recent cases have made international news. Those cases involve Darryl Pinkins and William Barnhouse.
Both men were charged and convicted of rape. They spent more than twenty years incarcerated for crimes they never committed. With the help of the Innocence Project and Indiana University's Wrongful Convictions Clinic, Pinkins and Barnhouse were set free.
Wrongfully convicted men Roosevelt Glenn and Darryl Pinkins are featured on Indiana Newsdesk
The Innocence Project is a not-for-profit organization that only represents men and women at no charge who can prove their innocence with DNA analyses. Indiana's branch of the Innocence Project includes Indiana University's Wrongful Convictions Clinic and its leader Frances Lee Watson.
The problem with this sort of option is that the organization is very overwhelmed and will not accept cases in the trial-by-jury or appellate stages of a case. The Innocence Project is literally a last option.
In the mean time, men and women wrongfully convicted of crimes shovel out thousands of dollars to fight burying odds, still winding up behind bars because of the power many prosecutors enjoy in a trial where the judge also used to be a prosecutor.
Wrongful convictions are a very real problem to those who are accused and their families. People's lives have ended while incarcerated because of unstable and unsafe living conditions. Some of those people are innocent men and women.
An explanation of the Innocence Project and its purpose
Ohio Innocence Project Director Mark Godsey explains in his book Blind Injustice why people get wrongfully convicted.
Cognitive Dissonance: occurs when facts disrupt the belief system of someone. For judges, prosecutors, and the police force, this is believing someone is guilty even though there is evidence that proves the defendant is innocent.
Administrative Evil: is the result of single persons doing what they're "supposed to do" based on the expectations of their peers. Since courts, prosecutor's offices, and police departments guard individuals with umbrellas of establishments, there is no single person held accountable.
Dehumanization: is part of the jobs of police officers - notably detectives - and prosecutors in order to get their jobs done. Police and prosecutors have to view suspects as less than human in order to get confessions, evidence, and convictions.
Also noted in Godsey's book Blind Injustice are the sort of incentives judges, prosecutors, and police departments have to convict people. From judicial election popularity, to getting that department bonus, to keeping a job; it doesn't matter if the person is innocent. What matters is getting that conviction.
Why Does It Happen?
The Doctors segment features wrongfully convicted men and women accompanied by Ohio Innocence Project Director