What If You Are Innocent?
Last year, I covered the highly publicized trial and conviction of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey – the two main subjects of the Netflix documentary entitled “Making a Murderer.” Avery had spent 18 years in prison just prior to the beginning of this film for a rape he didn’t commit and was acquitted when new DNA evidence was found.
Just one year later, he was charged with the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. The film follows the process of the investigation and his and his nephew Brendan’s trial.
Until recently, they were both serving life sentences for the murder of Teresa Halbach, but Dassey’s conviction, based solely on a coerced confession, has been overturned. He was released in November, 2016.
What Leads to Wrongful Convictions?
According to the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, which specializes in overturning wrongful convictions not based on DNA evidence, there are several common causes for wrongful convictions:
- Eyewitness Misidentification
Prosecution sometimes relies on this very subjective method of collecting data at a crime scene, or they wait too long to collect it. Studies show that human minds don’t record events exactly how they occurred.
- Junk Science
Some of the forensic science used in trials and investigations is unreliable, and some forensic analysts have “engaged in misconduct.”
- False Confessions
Sometimes innocent defendants are pressured so much during an investigation that at some point they believe things will go better for them if they make incriminating statements, make false confessions or even plead guilty.
- Government Misconduct
In some cases, government officials “make the case” when there is none.
Sometimes others are given incentives to testify which are not disclosed to the jury, and this testimony becomes central evidence to convict an innocent person.
- Bad Lawyering
Overworked lawyers can fail to investigate thoroughly.
The method used by police detectives Wiegert and Fassbender in Brendan Dassey’s investigation is called the Reid Technique, and it is widely used and taught by all law enforcement in this country. It is heavily based on the idea that lying involves anxiety and can be detected by observable evidence of anxiety. It has also been called, by psychology experts, “intentionally coercive.”
If this is the leading, and often only, interrogation technique used by all branches of law enforcement in this country, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Michigan may be spending $50 million annually on housing wrongly convicted people
Defense System Reform
Another factor impacting Michigan is the inequality of representation in our defense system. There are many reports showing how court-appointed defense attorneys have too high a caseload, lack resources or ability to perform well for their clients. Michigan has formed a state coalition called The Campaign For Justice to reform the defense system. It has a few goals:
- To ensure the right to counsel delivered by effective counsel at each critical stage of proceedings.
- Consistent proceedings throughout the state
- Adequate funding
- Uniform standards
- Better oversight
What do you think? Should there be reforms in the way police interrogations are conducted? How should the government provide meaningful defense to those charged with crimes to ensure that they are not wrongfully convicted?
It is our goal at The David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC, to diligently fight for our clients and to ensure that our clients are not convicted of crimes they did not commit. If you have or a loved one has been wrongly convicted of a crime, know that you have rights, and there is hope. Contact us today.
Let’s start fighting to protect your freedom