Causes of Wrongful Convictions
In 1992 Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld started the Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The Innocence Project investigates claims of innocence by prisoners by obtaining case files, trial transcripts and interviewing clients. In addition, the Project seeks to reform the criminal justice system and prevent future injustice. The Innocence Project has expanded to many law schools, supporting wrongful conviction advocacy across the nation.
Since the clinic was formed, there have been 225 cases where DNA evidence has proven innocence beyond a doubt. A study of these cases has identified six main causes of wrongful convictions:
- Eyewitness Misidentification
- Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
- False Confessions / Admissions
- Government Misconduct
- Bad Lawyering
The results of these studies have led to a series of recommendations and model practices. Today, the Innocence Project advocates investigating all of the above causes. DNA is not present in a majority of causes, therefore, investigation and advocacy is needed to overcome wrongful convictions.