The Tampa Bay Times has called for bold changes in Florida’s criminal justice system in order to reduce the number of wrongful convictions across the state. Thirteen of the 291 people exonerated through DNA testing were wrongfully convicted in Florida. Only Texas, Illinois, New York and Virginia have more.
On Monday, the Florida Innocence Commission embarked on several weeks of hearings to review how wrongful convictions occur and how to prevent them in the future. The commission, which is comprised of prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and other professionals in the criminal justice community, is expected to propose criminal justice reforms at the end of June.
When the criminal justice system gets it wrong, innocent people are denied their liberty. Their families are left behind often without a father or provider. Crime victims don’t get justice because the real perpetrator went free, possibly to offend again. Everyone loses.
The Florida Innocence Commission is studying the most common contributing factors of wrongful conviction. It has already recommended reforms to improve police lineup procedures and reduce the rate of eyewitness misidentification.
It was an important step, but without more far-reaching and substantial recommendations from the commission, there won’t be real change. This is Florida’s opportunity to better its system of justice.