Pursuing justice for the wrongfully convicted is a profoundly meaningful goal. Yet the innocence movement may have unintended consequences for the criminal justice system. This paper explores some of these, and argues that the focus on factual innocence may create certain distortions in the way that actors in the criminal justice system---the "ones left behind"--perceive their obligations and allegiances. It may convince the public, including policymakers, that the system works effectively to reveal and redress wrongful convictions. It may convince prospective jurors that it is-or should be-the defendant's burden to prove innocence. It may convince potential criminal defense clients that only the innocent secure the loyal and skilled assistance of a committed attorney. To say this is not to suggest that the innocence movement should cease its efforts to secure exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals. It is, however, to suggest that this strategy should be viewed not only as an opportunity to do justice in a few cases, but as an opportunity to identify and address those systemic flaws that produce wrongful convictions.


Symposium: Toward More Reliable Jury Verdicts - Law, Technology, and Media Development since the Trials of Dr. Sam Sheppard

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