Those in need of a solid, Massachusetts criminal defense will want to consider the following: A recent study indicated that some 2,000 people in the U.S. have been exonerated and declared innocent in the past 23 years.
This might seem good news, and certainly those are joyous occasions.
However, Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers would point out that the majority of those exonerations didn’t happen until years (an average of 11) after the conviction. That’s an incredibly long time for someone who is innocent.
The reason why this is so important to note is because while we like to believe that the criminal justice system is fair and that justice will prevail, there are flaws. What that means is that your investment in a skilled Massachusetts criminal defense attorney is critical. It ensures you have an advocate who can defend your rights at every step of the process. Just because you are innocent of all or part of the crimes of which you are accused does not mean you can trust your fate to an overworked public defender.
And while there may have been some 2,000 exonerations over the last two decades, it is believed that is a relatively small number of total innocent people who are jailed. In fact, the researchers themselves estimated that an inordinate number of false convictions are slipping through the cracks.
In taking a closer look at the study, conducted by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, about 870 of those convicted spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison.
That’s 10,000 years served by innocent people.
Ninety percent of those were African Americans.
About half of the cases were murder and about a third were sexual assaults. That means we’re not talking about petty theft or larceny. We’re talking about serious crimes for which people are facing decades – or worse – behind bars.
It can be a challenge for defense attorneys to overcome some of these odds, particularly if the person has a prior criminal record. But committing one crime in the past does not automatically mean you’ve committed another, and each case has to be analyzed and decided on its own merits.
The researchers guesstimate that there are approximately 1 million felony convictions across the country every year. With court systems that are burdened by budget woes and staffing issues, there’s a huge propensity for mistakes that could cost you your freedom.
Those mistakes have a lot to do with witnesses. Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers have long known that eye witnesses can be problematic for a number of reasons. Typically, it’s not necessarily that a person is lying (though that of course does happen). In a lot of cases, people are simply mistaken. It was dark, they couldn’t see well, it happened so fast – there are a lot of reasons for misidentification. But people want to catch the “bad guy,” either because they want to be helpful or because they truly want to see justice done. They’re reticent to admit they just aren’t 100 percent sure of what – or who – they saw.
That’s why having a defense attorney with experience is going to be so incredibly important. Intense scrutiny of the evidence by a skilled attorney is your best chance for a favorable outcome.
The Law Offices of Michael DelSignore are conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford and Westborough.
Call (617) 694-6287 for more information.
Study: 2,000 convicted then exonerated in 23 years, Staff Report, Associated Press