The research I have conducted is on wrongful convictions. “Let us free the innocent and punish
the guilty”. Through my research I hope to expose you to the reality of innocent people getting
charged for crimes they did not commit. What are wrongful convictions? How do wrongful
convictions happen? What is a significant case of a wrongful conviction? How can we avoid future
wrongful convictions? What are the statics on exonerations across the nation?
A wrongful conviction is a conviction in which a person, or persons are convicted for a crime
and later found to be proven innocent based on evidence (Duhaime, 2015).
One of the single greatest causes of wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification. The
human memory is far from a tape recorder, witness information must be retrieved a certain way.
Junk science is a method in which science is being applied without proper validation on the forensic
methods (University of Michigan , 2015). Sometimes forensic analysts can engage in misconduct of
the forensic material.
Through the intense interrogation process, trying to state your innocence is hard with all the
pressures. This leads the defendants to make a false confession (University of Michigan , 2015).
Government Officials have tried to convict a person even when the evidence is weak. “Snitches”
are the individuals who go and testify because of an incentive. Bad lawyering is another problem
that contributes to the sentencing of innocent people. This is where lawyers are overworked and
have not properly prepared for a case (University of Michigan , 2015). Everyone wants to see a
courtroom with a good prosecutor, but that is not always the case. When a prosecutor messes up,
they sometimes will sweep their errors under the rug in hopes of getting reelected (Locke, 2013).
The truth is that most prosecutors are out to get the most convictions and not necessarily looking for
correct justice. Here is a quote by Author Margaret Z. Johns “Prosecutors are rarely disciplined
or criminally prosecuted for their misconduct, and the victims of this misconduct are generally
denied any civil remedy because of prosecutorial immunities” (Locke, 2013).
In 1984, Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for the rape-murder of Dawn Hamilton. This
case was the first death row exoneration by DNA. Five witnesses had linked Kirk Bloodsworth to
be in or around the area at the time Dawn Hamilton was murdered (Northwestern Law, 2015). 12
years later in 1986, Maryland court of appeals overturned Kirk Bloodsworth conviction. They found
that the prosecution had illegally withheld exculpatory evidence (Northwestern Law, 2015).
Unfortunately, Kirk Bloodsworth was retried again which was affirmed on an appeal in the case of
Bloodsworth V. State 76 Md in 1988. In 1992, centurion ministries of Princeton, New Jersey helped
Kirk Bloodsworth get the approval to test DNA material from the original crime scene
(Northwestern Law, 2015). Edward T. Blake, who was part of the Forensic Science Association,
performed the DNA tests that claimed Kirk Bloodsworths innocence. On June 28th of 1993, Kirk
Bloodsworth is released from prison. The state of Maryland paid Bloodsworth $300,000 in
compensation for the years that he was in prison (Northwestern Law, 2015). It was the spring of
2003, a forensic biologist found stains on clothes that had not been analyzed yet. After testing of
DNA through semen fluid, it was confirmed that Kimberly Shay Ruffner was the real killer
(Northwestern Law, 2015). On September 5th 2003, Kimberly Shay Ruffner was charged with the
rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton (Northwestern Law, 2015).
Another wrongful conviction story is that of James Bain. Bain was sentenced to prison on March
4, 1974 for the rape and kidnapping of a 9-year-old boy. The young boy was abducted from his
home where he was taken to a baseball field and raped (Geary, 2010). The jury relied solely on the
boy’s description, which fit a man with a mustache, sideburns, a beard, and looked to be 17 or 18
years old. Convicted at 19, Bain stated his innocence (Geary, 2010). When Bain was convicted,
DNA testing was not around. It wasn’t until the Innocent Project of Florida stepped in to help Bain
retain his innocence and have his conviction overturned through DNA testing (Geary, 2010). James
Bain spent the longest time in prison of any wrongful convictions, spending 35 years in prison! He
was released and proven innocent December 17th 2009 at the age of 54 years old (Geary, 2010).
There are many things that need to be done in order to lessen the number of wrongful
convictions that happen each year (Ramsey, 2007). First, is to improve professionalism and ethics.
Next, we need better training programs for criminal justice practitioners. Another is a need for more
resource such as money, time and personnel. Investigations should be more thorough to make sure
all evidence is gathered (Ramsey, 2007). Witness identification is a big component to improving
wrongful convictions. Lastly, making sure forensics and technology are update and accurate
In the United States alone there have been 330 post-conviction exonerations through the use of
DNA. It’s crazy to think, but 14 years is the average time spent behind bars for the wrongfully
convicted. The average age of an inmate at the time of their wrongful conviction is 26 and half
years old (Innocence Project , 2015). There were 20 people of those 330 that served time on death
row. The sad part is 31 people pleaded guilty to crimes in which they didn’t commit (Innocence
Project , 2015). Some states will pay compensation to those that are proven to be innocent. Texas is
the highest paying state at $80,000 per year, and Wisconsin is the lowest at $5,000 per year
I do believe we can cut back on the number of wrongful convictions. The process is simple. We
must follow the rules and procedures to the highest degree. In order to prevent and lessen the
number of wrongful convictions we must have properly trained personnel to deal and understand all
components of the criminal justice system. This will help to insure someone is properly convicted.
Those that are in positions of high authority need to be held accountable for there actions. DNA
needs to be used to its fullest potential in every case. Eyewitnesses also need to be evaluated in
depth before being allowed to give testimony. By lessening the number of wrongful convictions we
will save money, time, and energy being put into cases that never should’ve happened to begin
with. We as a nation need to focus in on the wrongly convicted, to bring justice to there cases, and
find the real party that have committed these crimes.
Duhaime, L. (2015, 1 1). Duhaime's Law Dictionary . Retrieved 9 15, 2015, from Duhaime's
Law Dictionary : http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/W/WrongfulConviction.aspx
Emanual, G. (2014, 6 16). When Innocent People Go To Prison, States Pay. Retrieved 9 17,
2015, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/06/16/320356084/when-innocent-
Geary, J. (2010, 1 7). Real suspect sought in 1974 rape after james bain was exonerated.
Retrieved 9 20, 2015, from Proquest:
Innocence Project . (2015, 9 3). DNA Exonerations Nationwide . Retrieved 9 17, 2015, from
Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent/improve-the-law/fact-
Locke, P. (2013, 2 20). Why I Think The US Justice System Is Broken- and Why It's Not Getting
Fixed. Retrieved 9 16, 2015, from The Wrongful Convictions Blog:
Northwestern Law. (2015, 1 1). First DNA Death Row Exoneration . Retrieved 9 16, 2015, from
Northwestern School of Law:
Ramsey, R. J. (2007, 8 20). HOW TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF WRONGFUL
CONVICTION. Retrieved 9 17, 2015, from Pro Quest:
University of Michigan . (2015, 1 1). Causes of Wrongful Convictions . Retrieved 9 15, 2015,
from Michigan Law: