Patrick T. McNallyAttorney at Law

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What causes wrongful convictions?

According to recent data, wrongful convictions are not just the subject of dramatizations. In 2015, 149 convictions were overturned. In fact, the number of exonerations has risen nearly every year in the past decade.

Readers may wonder how wrongful convictions can result in a criminal justice system that requires the prosecution to present evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, the causes are unsettling.

In around 40 percent of last year’s exonerations, researchers found that official misconduct contributed to the erroneous outcome. In homicide cases, that percentage was about 75 percent. In one example, a conviction had been based on the testimony of a now-retired police detective who made certain representations about so-called confessions from the accused during an unrecorded interrogation.

About 20 percent of last year’s wrongful convictions resulted from false confessions. In many instances, the accused was a minor and/or intellectually disabled. Finally, another 40 percent of last year’s exonerations involved criminal defendants who had plead guilty to avoid trial, despite their innocence.

As a criminal defense firm that has helped defendants with their trial defense and/or appeals, we have seen firsthand the aggressive tactics by which authorities and prosecutors may build a criminal case. Interrogations and the threat of severe criminal penalties may be too intimidating to withstand, even for an innocent suspect, without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our law firm works to hold prosecutors to their burden of proof. If a wrong outcome did occur at trial, we are well versed in an array of post-conviction strategies to right that wrong and obtain the best outcome for our clients.

Source: Huffington Post, “A Record Number Of People Were Exonerated In 2015 For Crimes They Didn’t Commit,” Matt Ferner, Feb. 3, 2016

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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