By: Niki Kalantari
Have you ever experienced that feeling of being punished and accused of something you haven’t even done? It can be one of the worst feelings, and the wrongfully convicted are victims of mistakes that the judicial system makes. 0.5% of felony convictions result in wrongful convictions, which is too many of which wrongful convictions have affected the lives of innocent people. “We call for more integrated approaches for addressing a wide range of often interrelated social, psychological and mental health issues experienced by those who were wrongfully convicted.” As explained in the Experiencing Wrongful and Unlawful Conviction article. No amount of money can replace the time you have missed freely. Over the past several years there have been many cases where people have been unjustified by the law once they were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison as innocent people because of tampering with witnesses, DNA exoneration and mishandling of physical evidence.
In a court room, witnesses are essential to have in a trial in order for the judge to find the accused guilty or not guilty. Sometimes it happens when lawyers or others tamper with these witnesses which lead to false accusations. Witness tampering is harming or otherwise threatening a witness, looking to influence his or her accounts. The crime of witness tampering in federal cases is defined by statute as "tampering with a witness, target, or an informant". This may cause the defendant to be falsely accused and face charges which are unfairly placed by a judge. Some people who are involved in this mischievous activity are lawyers, family members or even the public. Lawyers of the plaintiff force witnesses to give false accusation in order to prove a point which could help them win a case. They may use money, physical harm or threats to their families into leaving them no choice but to lie. The penalties for this kind of offense can be 20 years if physical force was applied or attempted, and up to ten years if physical force was only threatened. The tampering does not actually have to be profitable in order for it to be criminal. Kenny Waters was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison where his sister came to his rescue about 18 years later. This case included tampering with witnesses as many of the witnesses were threatened and later on discovered as having false accusations. Almost one-fifth (19.8%) of the total samples(10,363 students in further education in Iceland) stated that they had been interrogated by the police in relation to a suspected offence, of those interrogated 8.8% (1.7% of the total sample) claimed to have made false confessions to the police. This, in my opinion is unacceptable and unfortunate.
Secondly, the most trusted piece of evidence used as proof in a trial is DNA. DNA is usually accurate although there are certain things that can go wrong in the process of matching DNA. One of the things that might happen is human error in the laboratory where scientists may not be able to follow procedures perfectly which can cause an accidental malfunction, which most likely never happens today. There might not even be much DNA at all to be enough for evidence. Things such as hair, blood, hair follicles, nails and other things that come from a body might not be valid to use depending on its timing, reliance and amount. In more than 50% of DNA exonerations, invalidated or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction. Actually, in 90-95% of crimes, DNA testing is not an option – so the criminal justice system relies on other kinds of evidence, including forensic disciplines that may not be scientifically sound or properly conducted. Again, with the Kenny Waters case, there was blood all over the crime scene and was a huge factor in proving him innocent. Right at the beginning of his case DNA was not as common as it was 18 years later, which was still valid after that long period of time.