Miscarriage of Justice
According to the Bill of Rights, the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees an individual a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." This right offers a defendant, no matter the severity of the crime, a fair trial and a proper review of all facts in his or her case.
The U.S. Constitution is the general framework upon which our country was built. Upholding the rights of our citizens and maintaining these freedoms is the basic principle of our foundation. When the basic rights of a fair trial are violated, or people are convicted and punished for a crime they did not commit, a drastic miscarriage of justice is present. A mistrial can also work in favor of the defendant, in the form of "errors of impunity," where lapses in the trial result in a sanction or not-guilty verdict.
Miscarriages of justice are a severe problem in America. Not only do they violate the U.S. Constitution, but they also are difficult to amend. The most serious miscarriages of justice occur when a wrongful conviction is not overturned for years, or when an innocent person unjustly receives the death penalty. Imprisoning, or sometimes even killing innocent people, is a critical shortcoming in our justice system. Although some miscarriages of justice cannot be reconciled, the court system has made a substantial effort to identify common forms of wrongful convictions.
Although difficult to immediately designate, miscarriages of justice are commonly caused by the following instances:
Critical evidence is destroyed or withheld by law enforcement or the prosecution
"Testilying"-a slang word used to describe a witness giving a false testimony to sway the jury or "make the case." Embellishments, misinformation, or lying are all grounds for a miscarriage of justice.
Any form of prejudice towards the defendant is grounds for a miscarriage of justice. Examples include members of the jury who discriminate or show bigotry based on race or sexual orientation.
False identification by witnesses or victims.
Miscarriages of justice can be present if evidence is contaminated or if forensic tests were administered improperly or deemed faulty.
False confessions are a common form of a miscarriage of justice. A false confession occurs when the defendant will falsely admit guilt due to coercion, a mental disability, or incompetency.
Conspiracy between the judge and the prosecutor to wrongly convict the defendant is considered a miscarriage of justice.
If investigators commit "confirmation basis", a miscarriage of justice will be upheld. Confirmation basis refers to an investigator misinterpreting evidence to confirm a preconceived notion that he or she had before the trial.
If the expert witness overestimates or underestimates the value of certain evidence, which in turn sways the jury or ruling, grounds for a miscarriages of justice is reached.
When a judge misdirects a jury or makes them focus on information that is not pertinent to the case or influential against the witness.
Wrongful convictions or miscarriages of justice carry a frightening prospect. When innocent people are sent to jail, or even worse, put to death, there is no proper justification or means to right such a horrific wrong. Miscarriages of justice act as a reminder. An umbrella of regulations used to ensure defendants that false convictions are in the conscience of our legal system.
Miscarriages of justice are a critical argument raised by proponents against the death penalty. Advocates point out that numerous individuals have been killed under false convictions. Miscarriages of justice are also used as an example for those against life sentences. The effects of extended imprisonment on an individual's mind are often irreversible and debilitating. The individual as well as their family will forever be changed due to a violation of the Sixth Amendment.
NEXT: What is Perjury?