Friday Roundup: DNA Evidence, Police Misconduct and Other Causes of Wrongful Convictions


In Detroit yesterday, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for

legislation to reduce the backlog of rape kit processing

in the city and across the country.  The delay in processing results from rape kits also slows DNA evidence from reaching law enforcement who, in turn can make arrests and prosecute based on the result.

In 2006, a special prosecutor ruled that former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and several detectives tortured more than 100 suspects into confessing to crimes between 1972 and 1991, which led to his termination from the Chicago Police Department in 1993.

According to news reports, many alleged torture victims were convicted of crimes they allege they weren’t involved in.

Some had their convictions overturned; some were sentenced to death. Although the statute of limitations for the alleged torture has run out, Burge was indicted in October 2008 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying to special prosecutors during the 2006 investigation. He has entered a not guilty plea and his trial is scheduled to begin May 24.

Innocence Network President Keith Findley

has contributed a chapter to Conviction of the Innocent: Lessons From Psychological Research, that discusses the role tunnel vision plays in criminal cases and wrongful convictions.   The chapter, titled “Tunnel Vision,” describes how this type of distortion can result in hindsight bias and impacts in the criminal justice system.


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