The recent explosion in wrongful conviction cases has been all over the news, and for good reason. The idea of an innocent person spending a decade of their life behind bars while the true suspect roams free is far from appealing, and thankfully since the advent of DNA evidence, it is harder for such people to end up behind bars.
However, the fact remains that there are likely hundreds and hundreds of wrongfully-convicted individuals still behind bars, and according to a scholar at Michigan State University, the Supreme Court should be doing a lot more to help release those individuals and prevent further wrongful convictions.
Christopher E. Smith says that the U.S. Supreme Court is at least partially responsible for many of the injustices. He was speaking in relation to the 2009 ruling that passed 5 votes to 4 stating that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing which could prove their innocence.
In addition, the Supreme Court recently revoked a $14 million judgment that was going to a wrongfully-convicted prisoner who had spent 14 years on death row after a junior member in the prosecutor’s office withheld crime lab test results and removed a blood sample from evidence.
According to Smith, these rulings do not breed confidence in the Supreme Court’s ability to be just when it comes to wrongful conviction.
He said “I understand why we don’t want to let people sue prosecutors all the time and bog them down with litigation, but when there is intentional misconduct, like stealing and hiding evidence from the defense which would show innocence, then it seems immunity in that situation is a complete disservice to our values, a complete disservice to the justice system itself.”
The Supreme Court’s position seems to be that accidents happen, and when they do, just move on. It’s understandable how this position is completely unacceptable to those innocent individuals who have spent 20 of their best years in prison. If nothing is done, it is expected that the number of wrongful conviction cases will not slow down for years to come.