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Wrongful convictions remain a serious concern

A wrongful criminal conviction may be the worst nightmare for many defendants in New York. Still, innocent people are convicted on a regular basis. In fact, one study estimates that 6 percent of cases may end with wrongful convictions. Some of these miscarriages of justice have come to light in recent years due to advancements in DNA technology. New access to evidence has enabled people convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder to show that it was scientifically impossible for them to have committed the offenses for which they were imprisoned.

Exonerations have happened in about 3 to 5 percent of such serious criminal cases, according to criminologists. University of Pennsylvania researchers noted that less serious criminal charges, including armed robbery, assault and drug possession, have not been studied. By surveying 3,000 state prisoners in Pennsylvania, the team found that 6 percent claimed to be innocent of the charges against them. The researchers said that this could be considered a high estimate, because some convicts may have reported their innocence untruthfully. However, the fact that the vast majority of respondents did not make such claims indicates that the responses are not inherently unreliable.

Around 66 percent of the survey participants said that they were fully responsible for the crimes for which they were in prison, while another 25 percent claimed at least partial responsibility. The surveys were anonymized in order to encourage honest participation. In addition, control questions allowed for a variety of responses and helped researchers to eliminate implausible responses.

Every day, people face charges for crimes that they did not commit. Whether they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or victims of mistaken identity, the consequences can be severe. A criminal defense attorney can help someone present a strong defense, challenging police evidence and prosecution narratives.

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