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Jospeh
Sicuranza


SBU
ID#
106623387


SOC
338
(Assignment
#2)


11/9/2010



 A
major
problem
with
today’s
criminal
justice
system
is
the
false
accusations
of


prisoners
and
wrongful
convictions.

Although
this
is
not
a
newly
found
issue,
there
has
not


been
many
ways
to
resolve
the
occurrences
of
such
atrocious
acts.
Though
not
all
wrongfully


convicted
cases
happen
on
purpose,
there
must
be
a
way
to
end
this
re‐occurring
problem.

A


study
called
“Wrongful
Convictions,”
done
by
Huff,
Rattner
and
Sagarin,
target
the
main


reasons
why
one
could
be
falsely
accused
of
a
crime
that
he
or
she
did
not
commit.
Through


their
analysis
and
methodology,
it
is
clear
why
there
is
such
a
high
frequency
of
wrongful


convictions.
Steven
Barkan
and
George
J.
Bryjak
also
discuss
this
issue
in
their
book,
Myths
and


Realities
of
Crime
and
Justice.
Through
these
forms
of
literature,
much
can
be
learned
about


wrongful
convictions
and
how
they
impact
the
justice
system
today
as
well
as
the
past.



 In
the
Huff,
Ratner
and
Sagarin
study
of
wrongful
convictions
their
methodology
or


approach
on
the
situation
is
very
useful
in
understanding
why
this
issue
is
so
common.
Through


the
use
of
research
and
surveys
performed
in
the
past
about
why
wrongful
convictions
occur,


case
studies
and
interviews
with
persons
who
have
been
falsely
accused
it
is
easier
to
relate


this
problem
with
instances
seen
throughout
history.




 In
the
book
Myths
and
Realities
of
Crime
and
Justice,
by
Barkan
and
Bryjak,
they
discuss


nine
major
factors
that
contribute
to
the
cause
of
wrongful
convictions.
The
first
issue


addressed
is
that
of
eyewitness
errors.
This
is
a
very
common
factor
involved
with
the


imprisonment
of
falsely
accused
individuals.
According
to
the
text,
“a
study
of
200
innocent

men
who
served
an
average
of
12
years
in
prison
discovered
that
the
leading
cost
of
wrongful


convictions
was
erroneous
identification,
a
factor
in
79
percent
of
the
cases
examined”
(Barkan


and
Bryjak
250).
This
common
error
is
very
evident
in
the
famous
case
of
Randall
Adams
and


the
killing
of
a
Dallas
County
police
officer,
Robert
Wood.
As
depicted
in
the
movie
“The
Thin


Blue
Line,”
directed
by
Errol
Morris,
it
is
clear
that
Randall
Adams
was
not
the
actual
murderer


of
Robert
Wood.
It
was
in
fact
a
man
by
the
name
of
David
Harris
who
committed
the
crime.


Unfortunately,
it
took
over
a
decade
to
prove
Adams’
innocence
but
as
described
throughout


the
film,
a
major
reason
why
he
was
proven
guilty
was
because
of
eyewitness
errors
made
by


two
very
important
individuals
involved
with
the
case.
Emily
Miller,
a
resident
of
Dallas
Texas


claimed
to
have
driven
past
the
scene
of
the
crime
where
police
officer
Robert
Wood
was


murdered.

Without
hesitation,
she
firmly
stated
that
Adams
was
the
driver
of
the
vehicle
which


contained
two
passengers
who
ultimately
ended
Wood’s
life.
The
officer
who
was
Wood’s


partner
at
the
time
and
one
of
the
very
first
women
to
patrol
in
Dallas
County
claimed
that
it


was
the
driver
of
the
vehicle
that
killed
Woods.
Although
she
was
not
able
to
identify
Adams
as


the
murderer,
her
claim
and
Miller’s
claim
went
together
and
proved
Adams
guilty
(“The
Thin


Blue
Line”
Morris).
Although
Wood’s
partner
did
not
disclose
false
information,
it
was
that
of


Emily
Miller
and
another
man
by
the
name
of
Michael
Randell
who
also
drove
past
the
scene
of


the
crime
and
who
had
also
stated
that
he
believed
Adam’s
was
the
killer,
that
resulted
in


Adam’s
imprisonment.
These
are
two
eyewitness
errors
seen
in
history
that
show
the
impact


these
mistakes
which
result
in
wrongful
convictions.

The
next
issue
discussed
by
Barkan
and


Bryjak
are
the
prosecutorial
and
police
misconduct
errors.
Although
it
is
not
extremely
frequent,


it
is
unfortunate
that
“about
two
thirds
of
their
wrongful
convictions
did
not
result
from

mistakes,
but
instead
from
intentional,
willful
and
malicious
behavior
of
criminal
justice


personnel
(Barkan
and
Bryjak
251).

False
confessions
by
the
accsued
and
plea
bargaining
are


also
issues
when
it
comes
to
the
false
accusations
that
result
in
imprisonment
of
the
innocent.


Community
pressure
is
also
a
cause
of
wrongful
convictions
and
that
involves
the
community’s


fear
of
criminals
who
have
had
previous
convictions
in
the
past.
Also
the
issue
of
race


contributes
to
wrongful
convictions.
According
to
Barkan
and
Bryjak,
because
of
one’s
race,
and


if
they
are
Hispanic
or
African
American,
the
likelihood
of
them
being
accused
is
higher
than


that
of
a
Caucasian
person
(Barkan
and
Bryjak
256).
The
lack
of
DNA
testing
may
also
contribute


to
the
many
situations
where
one
has
been
falsely
accused
of
a
crime.
It
makes
it
harder
to


identify
the
true
criminal
and
may
result
in
a
wrongful
conviction.
Lastly,
the
accusations


against
the
innocent
by
the
guilty
are
discussed.
Once
again,
Eroll
Morris’
film
provides
a


concrete
example
of
this
issue.
The
true
murderer
of
Robert
Wood
was
David
Harris,
a
sixteen‐

year
old
boy
at
the
time
of
the
crime.
He
constructed
a
false
story
and
put
the
blame
on
a
man


he
had
met
the
day
the
murder
occurred;
that
man
being
Randall
Adams.
This
confession


provided
by
Harris,
“set
the
wheels
rolling”
in
building
up
a
case
against
Adams.
(“The
Thin
Blue


Line”
Morris)



 As
seen
throughout
history
and
by
the
methodology
used
by
Huff,
Rattner
and
Sagarin


as
well
as
Barkan
and
Bryjak,
it
is
clear
that
wrongful
convictions
are
common
and
are
caused


by
numerous
issues.
Errol
Morris’,
“The
Thin
Blue
Line”
is
just
one
of
many
cases
that
have


resulted
in
a
wrongful
imprisonment.
Although
this
problem
will
not
ever
perish
within
the


criminal
justice
system,
hopefully
the
efforts
made
by
these
authors
will
provide
more


recognition
about
the
common
problem
and
prevent
it
from
happening
in
the
future.

Works
Cited


Barkan,
Steven
E.
and
George
J.
Bryjak.
2009.
Myths
and
Realities
of
Crime
and
Justice:
What

Every
American
Should
Know.
Boston:
Jones
and
Bartlett,
Publishers.



Morris,
Errol.
The
Thin
Blue
Line.
Film.
1988