Wrongful conviction happens more often than you might think. So often that innocent clients have a lot to be afraid of, and even more reasons to hire an attorney now that public defense offices are becoming more and more swamped. However, the fact is that while we would love to have an overly positive result for every client that walks through our doors, sometimes it’s:
Just. Not. Possible.
We have a very short list of clients walk out of our doors who do not fully understand what a modern “win” is so I think it’s time we explained it.
A Win may be a reduced sentence, reduced fine, community service, OR it may mean a not guilty verdict, zero fine, zero community service, or zero jail time at all, but to expect such wins is an extremely harmful practice for people looking to hire an attorney.
The fact is, as much as people like to say that our system is “failing” us they often have very little understanding of how well our system actually works, especially with people that have been accused of committing a crime.
Wrongful conviction is systemic. The conviction rate in this country has sky-rocketed in the last ten years and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, (seen here), we had a “93 percent conviction rate” in 2010. This rate was expected to decline, but in 2011 we saw a “rate of conviction (that) remained over 93 percent.” This second rate was a “coincidence” and surely was expected to decline until 2012 and 2013 where the U.S. Department of Justice actually saw similar increases.
How can this be? In a country where the accused are presumed innocent how can this be? The problem is that juries have changed, and dramatically so.
Leading research shows that modern juries are less educated about the viability of evidence against people who are accused and more and more are likely to presume an accused person’s guilt than they are to presume their innocence because of this fact. Many juries will convict simply on eye-witness testimony, something lawyers know first hand is the most unreliable form of evidence.
Another issue that often causes a “less successful” win is the client themselves. Many clients expect their attorney to win, even if they lie to them about extremely important facts associated with their case. The truth is that it hurts the client, the case, and the attorney, and nobody wins.
See the info-graphic below for more statistics.