Kent Roach on “Wrongful Convictions in Canada”

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.

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