The popular Netflix documentary series provides two lessons about wrongful convictions.
The Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” has gained attention throughout the country. A recent article in The New Yorker discusses the piece, noting the public’s fascination with justice is not a new one. The piece discusses a column that ran in a magazine that addressed similar issues. The column was called “The Court of Last Resort,” and it ran from 1948 to 1958. In this column, a former criminal defense attorney along with a private detective, handwriting analyst, former prison warden and a homicide specialist would work together reviewing cases looking for wrongful convictions. Their work resulted in a number of exonerations.
Although it is unclear what the impact of “Making a Murderer” will have on Stephen Avery and Brendan Dassey, this current case echoes lessons learned during the running of “The Court of Last Resort”.
Those who are facing a wrongful conviction can take two lessons away from the documentary and magazine column. In some cases, a wrongful conviction may hinge on a false or involuntary confession. These confessions are not always accurate. Innocent people can confess to a crime they did not commit for a number of reasons. The Innocence Project, a national organization that is dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals, notes that a number of factors can contribute to a false confession during a police interrogation. These can include duress, coercion, diminished capacity, mental impairment, a misunderstanding of the law, fear of violence, the threat of a harsh sentence or intoxication.
In addition to these factors, additional personal attributes have been shown to increase the risk of a false or involuntary confession. These two attributes are:
The Innocence Project estimates that more than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement. As a result, it is important for those who believe they are being wrongly persecuted for a crime they did not commit to take the charges seriously. In these situations, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced wrongful conviction lawyer. This legal professional will help better ensure your legal rights are protected.
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