Case study account of causes and legal implication of wrongful conviction
Innocent persons could become victims of wrongful conviction when courts erroneously enter guilty verdicts for offences which they factually did not commit. Factors which could lead to error in judgment could either be within or outside the control of judicial officers. For instance, different forms of ineptitude and misconduct by the police officers, prosecutors, defence attorneys and other criminal justice actors could lead to the court making wrong findings. Using a case study approach, this paper points out various instances where wrongful conviction has occurred due to confessional statements obtained by oppression, wrong application of forensic science, incompetent legal representation etc. The paper which sets out to demonstrate the causes and legal implication of wrongful convictions, contends that wrongful conviction contravenes the essential principle of criminal justice which is to the effect that persons should not be made liable for offences which they did not committed and that it is better for many accused persons to escape punishment than for one innocent person to be punished. The case study approach which involves the review of cases where wrongful convictions were widely held to have occurred is herein adopted. Based on the cases sourced from Nigeria and other countries herein examined, the study found that the factors identified as causes of this aberration of justice, include: misidentification of the suspect by eyewitness, confessional statement either voluntary or coerced, faulty expert opinion, incompetent defence counsel, faulty forensic analysis and so on.
Key words: “Wrongful Conviction”, “Police Misconduct”, “Criminal Justice”