Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice

Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice

by Saundra D. Westervelt
     
 

The American criminal justice system contains numerous safeguards to prevent the conviction of innocent persons. The Bill of Rights provides nineteen separate rights for the alleged criminal offender, including the right to effective legal representation and the right to be judged without regard to race or creed. Despite these safeguards, wrongful convictions

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Overview

The American criminal justice system contains numerous safeguards to prevent the conviction of innocent persons. The Bill of Rights provides nineteen separate rights for the alleged criminal offender, including the right to effective legal representation and the right to be judged without regard to race or creed. Despite these safeguards, wrongful convictions persist, and the issue has reverberated in the national debate over capital punishment.

The essays in this volume are written from a cross-disciplinary perspective by some of the most eminent lawyers, criminologists, and social scientists in the field today. The articles are divided into four sections: the causes of wrongful convictions, the social characteristics of the wrongly convicted, case studies and personal histories, and suggestions for changes in the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. Contributors examine a broad range of issues, including the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, particularly in cross-racial identifications; the disadvantages faced by racial and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system; and the impact of new technologies, especially DNA evidence, in freeing the innocent and bringing the guilty to justice. The book also asks such questions as: What legal characteristics do wrongful convictions share? What are the mechanisms that defendants and their attorneys use to overturn wrongful convictions? The book also provides case studies that offer specific examples of what can and does go wrong in the criminal justice system.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
An all-star set of contributors and clearly written essays make this a worthwhile addition to anti-death penalty literature. Sociology professors at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Westervelt (Shifting the Blame) and Humphrey take a practical approach to the topic. Essays in Part 1 show that eyewitnesses are often wrong, police trick suspects into making confessions, informants lie to gain benefits, and police can be incompetent or venal. Part 2 argues that those who are unpopular, uneducated, or members of a racial minority invite harsher treatment by authorities. The next section offers case studies on convictions that were wrongly obtained, followed by suggestions for changes in the criminal justice system, such as more active judges, an "innocence commission" to examine convictions, liberal use of DNA evidence, and better training for lawyers. The book is more accessible than contributor Hugo Adam Bedau's The Death Penalty in America (LJ 3/15/97), the standard work in the field, and more pragmatic than Austin Sarat's When the State Kills (LJ 4/1/01), which attacks the death penalty from a philosophical and moral perspective. This excellent introduction to a controversial topic is highly recommended. Harry Charles, Attorney at Law, St. Louis Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813529516
Publisher:
Rutgers University Press
Publication date:
07/01/2001
Series:
Critical Issues in Crime and Society Series
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.95(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author


Saundra D. Westervelt is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is author of Shifting the Blame: How Victimization Became a Criminal Defense (Rutgers University Press). John A. Humphrey is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and coauthor of Deviant Behavior and The Administration of Justice.

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