Archive for the ‘wrongful convictions’ Category

Kent Roach on “Wrongful Convictions in Canada”

July 28, 2011

Wilbert Coffin. David Milgaard. Guy Paul Morin. Donald Marshall, Jr.. Thomas Sophonow. Stephen Truscott. A shameful legacy of  those wrongfully convicted by the Canadian criminal justice system.

In the United States, according to The Innocence Project:

There have been 273 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states; since 2000, there have been 206 exonerations.

• 17 of the 273 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.

• The average length of time served by exonerees is 13 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,524.

• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.”

What are the root causes of wrongful convictions and how can they be avoided in the future? Kent Roach (University of Toronto – Faculty of Law) attempts to provide an answer from a Canadian perspective in his post entitled “Wrongful Convictions in Canada”, University of Cincinnati Law Review, forthcoming. Here’s the abstract:

This article provides an overview of wrongful convictions in Canada. The first part examines the number of wrongful convictions concluding that the 40-70 known wrongful convictions are likely the tip of the iceberg given that they mostly arise in homicide and/or sexual assault cases and that a number of recently revealed cases suggests that wrongful convictions may occur in guilty plea cases. The next part uses the Donald Marshall Jr and Tammy Marquardt cases as case studies of the two main forms of overturning wrongful convictions: petitions to the federal Minister of Justice to re-open cases and out of time appeals, both with fresh evidence. The article then examines the main causes of wrongful convictions and the role that police, prosecutors, providers of forensic evidence, defence counsel and judges and juries play in wrongful convictions and the remedies that have been proposed by various public inquiries and sometimes implemented in Canada to deal with those causes. The last part of this article will examine compensation for the wrongfully convicted including the steps that Canada has taken to comply with Article 14(6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with respect to compensation.

A copy of the paper may be downloaded from SSRN here.

Katherine MacLellan (thecourt.ca): "Out, Damned Spot!…Chaudhary v. AG of Can. et al."

November 19, 2010
 For those who have a keen interest in wrongful convictions, Charter litigation and procedural justice, and who also appreciate fine legal writing, I  highly commend this post by 2nd year Osgoode Hall Law School J.D. student, Katherine MacLellan over at thecourt.ca entitled: 

Kent Roach on "Wrongful Convictions: Adversarial and Inquisitorial Themes"

July 28, 2010
Wilbert Coffin. David Milgaard. Guy Paul Morin. Donald Marshall. Thomas Sophonow. Stephen Truscott. A tragic coterie of the wrongfully convicted in Canada.
In the United States, according to The Innocence Project:
“There have been 255 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states; since 2000, there have been 189 exonerations.
• 17 of the 255 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.
• The average length of time served by exonerees is 13 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,245.
• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.”

What are the root causes of wrongful convictions and how can they be avoided in the future? Professor Kent Roach (University of Toronto – Faculty of Law) considers these issues in a new paper on SSRN entitled: Wrongful Convictions: Adversarial and Inquisitorial Themes appearing in the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol. 35, 2010.  Here is the abstract: 
The discovery of wrongful convictions in Anglo-American systems over the last twenty years has shaken confidence in the adversarial system of criminal justice. The first part of this article will assess the main identified causes of wrongful convictions in Anglo-American systems through the lens of what they reveal about the limits of the adversary system. Six main causes will be discussed, namely mistaken eyewitness identification, lying witnesses, false confessions and false guilty pleas, faulty forensic evidence, tunnel vision or confirmation bias, and inadequate defense representation. The second part of this article will assess possible remedies for wrongful convictions in Anglo-American systems through the lens of the extent to which they attempt to improve the adversarial system and the extent to which they adopt practices that use inquisitorial methods of investigation.

The third part of the article will discuss reform proposals for preventing and remedying wrongful convictions that explicitly or implicitly draw on inquisitorial ideals. It will be suggested that many adversarial systems can easily accommodate inquisitorially inspired reforms. Finally, this article will draw some conclusions about what wrongful convictions can tell us about adversarial and inquisitorial systems. The weaknesses and blind spots of each system will be examined as a prelude to suggesting that combining aspects of adversarial and inquisitorial systems can best prevent and remedy wrongful convictions. Each system can and should learn from the other in order to better prevent and remedy wrongful convictions.


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