A loved one has been charged with a crime that you know he or she did not commit. All you need to do is wait for the not-guilty verdict to be read so that you can all leave this nightmare in the past, right? Not necessarily.
Wrongful convictions are a lot more common than any of us would like to believe. Innocent people in Tennessee can be convicted of crimes they did not commit, often because of questionable evidence.
According to the Innocence Project, which exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing, many wrongful convictions involve the following problems with evidence, testimony or confessions:
1. Flawed eyewitness testimony: Eyewitness testimony is prone to human error and manipulation.
2. Erroneous forensic evidence: Forensic evidence can be questionable or fraudulent because of human error, scientific error, or purposeful misconduct.
3. Untruthful informants: Informants, or snitches, often have ulterior motives for providing dishonest testimony.
4. False confessions: False confessions can be the result of coercion, confusion, fear, intimidation or lack of mental capacity.
There is no way of knowing exactly how many people are wrongfully convicted of crimes in Tennessee each year, but according to the National Registry of Exonerations well over 1,700 people in the U.S. have been formally exonerated. This does not include people who were informally exonerated, or those who were never exonerated even though they were wrongfully convicted.
How to avoid wrongful conviction in Tennessee
The most effective way of ensuring that your loved one is not wrongfully convicted is to take the misdemeanor or felony charges seriously, even if you know for a fact that he or she is innocent.
That means getting a lawyer who will make sure that your loved one’s rights are protected, and objects to any problems that could arise with evidence, testimony or a confession.
Once a guilty verdict is rendered, it becomes more difficult to prove innocence. However, even years later, it may still be possible to pursue an appeal or expungement.
Check out this article on wrongful convictions for even more information.