Like most residents of the Lone Star State, you do what you can to obey the law. While complying with state and federal laws is usually an effective strategy for avoiding criminal charges, juries occasionally convict some Texans of crimes they did not commit.
As you likely know, sitting in jail for a crime you did not do can be incredibly disheartening. Even though you likely have a healthy respect for the rule of law, you also must realize that the American judicial system is not perfect. Here are five reasons wrongful convictions tend to occur in Texas.
1. Inadequate assistance of counsel
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants criminal defendants the right to effective assistance of counsel. Still, not all lawyers do a good job representing their clients. If an attorney’s performance is inadequate, a jury may find his or her innocent client guilty.
2. Police misconduct
In the United States, police officers must respect the law. While most members of the law enforcement community follow procedure in an honest and straightforward way, dirty cops exist. When an officer plants evidence, gives false testimony or otherwise engages in misconduct, a defendant may suffer significant legal consequences.
3. Bad science
Modern science is nothing short of incredible. After all, investigators are often able to use DNA testing and other means to solve crimes. Not all science is good science, though. In fact, appeals courts regularly condemn junk science. Still, juries often rely on unreliable science to convict defendants.
4. Coerced confessions
If you have seen “Making a Murderer” on Netflix, you probably understand the power of coerced confessions. In that docuseries, detectives used the Reid Technique to elicit a confession from a minor. In addition to that approach, there are dozens of ways to persuade a suspect to confess to criminal conduct. Not all confessions are reliable, though. In fact, individuals routinely confess to crimes they did not commit. Nevertheless, coerced confessions often lead to wrongful convictions.
Eyewitness testimony can be incredibly powerful in the courtroom. Still, witnesses are not always reliable. On the contrary, sometimes they are downright wrong. If an eyewitness misidentifies a suspect in a police lineup or inside the courtroom, a jury may convict an innocent defendant.
While not committing crimes is usually an effective strategy for avoiding jail, sometimes juries convict defendants of crimes they did not commit. If you believe a judge or jury wrongfully convicted you of a crime, you likely need to act quickly to protect both your legal rights and your freedom.