Mistakenly Sentenced: Innocent Behind Bars
The American justice system faces significant challenges and sometimes the rights of citizens are trampled by overzealous prosecutions and problems with evidence. As a result, too many people are jailed for crimes they didn't commit.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
That phrase is said to be the undeniable right for every citizen who gets in trouble with the law. However, the consequences of being proven guilty with incorrect proof can land innocent citizens behind bars. The fact that witnesses can lie, subconsciously or consciously, is a serious hole in the American judicial system.
The Story of Brian Banks
Brian Banks is a prime example of falsely accused individual spending time behind bars. According to the California Innocence Project, in 2002, Brian Banks was accused of rape by an acquaintance when he was seventeen years age and was forced to take the lessor of two evils in his plea. The choice to fight the charge and be found guilty would set him in prison and rob 41 years of the life of this young man. The lesser evil was to plead guilty to the crime, get seven years of jail time, probation, as well as being a lifetime registered sex offender.
Brian has since found relief when the acquaintance that lied finally came forward and admitted the truth. Although now a free man without a criminal record, Brian Banks cannot get back the five years he spent behind bars, robbing him of a college experience and football career, as well as countless other experiences he missed out on.
Casandra Kennedy accused her father of rape when she was eleven years old. Thomas Kennedy was convicted because his daughter concocted a believable story when she was angry and upset. Her father served nine years and was released in 2012 because she came forward and admitted that she lied.
Thomas Kennedy may have his freedom, but he cannot relive those nine years he spent behind bars because of being mistakenly accused.
Witness identification plays a powerful role in many of the cases involving incorrect sentencing. At times false witness identification can be accidental with traumatic events causing the mind to play tricks on the witnesses. Many times events play out so fast that it can leave a distortion of what really happened.
There are quite a few elements that can affect witness identification. These include lighting, distance, and stress of the witness. Also, though unfortunate, the race of the perpetrator can play a factor as well.
It is certainly important to note here that something needs to be done about the witness identification process. It would behoove those in the criminal justice system to come up with a way to be more certain of the actual person that committed a crime.
With that being said, it is also vital to understand the consequences of falsely accusing someone. Lives and families have been destroyed because someone is convinced they saw a certain person committing a crime. Witness identification has been considered one of the main ways to prove guilt. However, there are quite a few people who have been falsely accused.
After unnecessarily serving years in prison, there needs to be some type of recourse for these victims. Not only are public apologies necessary, but there should also be ways and means for these real victims to re-establish their lives. Although some of these falsely accused individuals are now released, the damage has been done. Reestablishing a normal life can take a long time, if even possible at all.
Something must be done in the legal system to combat this issue. There has to be a way to improve upon a system that is allowing so many to serve time or even lose their lives for crimes they did not commit. Innocent people have their lives destroyed or irreparably damaged because of intentional lies or even unintentional mistaken identity. DNA is, of course, helpful and promising when it is available for proof. But what happens to those when DNA is not available?
Image Credit: CC BY-NC 2.0 (Flickr)/710928003
Daniel Adler creates informative articles related to the field of law. He is concerned about those who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit and he hopes to help remedy this problem along with those working with the California Innocence Project.
Copyright © 2013. Used with contributor's permission.