People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the justice system is truly fair and only puts the guilty behind bars. However, the evidence tells a different story and shows that many people who are serving time may be completely innocent.
Exactly how many is not known. However, from the 1980s until now, DNA evidence has been used to clear people of old crimes. This evidence does not exist in every case, of course, so you have to extrapolate the data after seeing the percentage of people who end up being innocent — though they were convicted years or even decades earlier — when DNA evidence is considered. When they do this, experts say that it’s likely that 20,000 people in U.S. prisons are actually innocent and were falsely convicted.
Why do these false convictions happen? There are a lot of reasons. Sometimes, people claim they are guilty when they’re not, either because they’re trying to protect someone else or because they’ve been manipulated into it by the authorities. Other times, witnesses make inaccurate statements based on bias, false memories or other such issues, and the jury convicts on those grounds. In still other cases, the court simply convicts based on the slim evidence it has, though having more evidence — such as DNA evidence — would easily have shown that a conviction was not warranted.
But, no matter why they happen, these convictions are life-changing events. Many colleges do not even have 20,000 students on campus, and yet the entire student population could be equaled by innocent people sitting in prison. Even after serving time, these individuals may get out and find that they cannot put back together the life that they lost.
This shows you the type of challenge you’re up against if you’re facing criminal charges of any type. You must know your rights. You must know what options you have. It may help to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney every step of the way.