Wrongful Liberty – A Tragic Consequence of Wrongful Conviction

You’ve heard us mention a number of times on this blog that when a wrongful conviction occurs, this leaves the real perpetrator free to keep committing crimes.  I’m sure everyone nods their head, and agrees that’s a terrible thing.  However, it isn’t until one quantifies what that really means, and brings some specificity to it, that you can begin to comprehend how tragic it really is.

At the current National Innocence Network Conference, I had the opportunity (yesterday) to hear a presentation by Prof. Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina about the work he’s done in documenting what he calls “wrongful liberty.”  Wrongful liberty is exactly the situation described above – a wrongful conviction occurs, an innocent person is sent to prison, and the real perpetrator remains free to commit more crimes.

In future, you will continue to hear from me a constant drumbeat about the need for more data to effect meaningful legislative reform – and what Prof. Baumgartner has done is brilliant.  He has undertaken to actually document the crimes committed by true perpetrators of a crime, for which there was a wrongful conviction, during the period from when the wrongful conviction occurred to when the true perpetrator was eventually arrested.

This data creates a compelling case for criminal justice reform, because it expands the reasoning from “just” an injustice to an innocent, wrongfully convicted person to an argument that includes a very real public safety issue.

The work, so far, has been limited to the state of North Carolina, and has been further limited by the availability of appropriate data.  But I am optimistic and hopeful that this effort can, and will, be expanded to a national level.  This is a winning argument.

You can read Prof. Baumgartner’s paper here:  WrongfulLiberty2014

6 responses to “Wrongful Liberty – A Tragic Consequence of Wrongful Conviction

  1. Mr. Locke, This is a great article highlighting this issue which I hope will include the non-violent, who get sent to prison for decades. It takes a special group of people, who appear normal in our society, but destroy lives never the less, with a lack of conscience and integrity, cheating their way through life and growing the “system”, who we count on to stop injustice.

    For a decade now, we have followed cases, where those in the system, political scene and entrenched culture, who have destroyed innocence lives, and go on to create more destruction. We must include this, as well. Incentivized growth of by those in law enforcement, prosecutors, or the prisons has encouraged falsely allegations that become “easy” convictions.

    As people get away with cheating and lying, growing bolder with each ill-gotten “victory”, this needs to be included. This is our society. Those who win at all costs, they rest get destroyed. The encourages the devious who, will file false reports and face no punishment.

    Those with the most connections and power can easily convict an innocent person. The adversarial Family Court system is ripe for abuse and the cases that we follow.

    These non-violent cases, may not be the “murderers” and “burglars” most people envision getting sent to prisons for years and decades. A conviction with an 11 year sentence for a non-violent, “he said, she said” is an example.

    Those who “game” the system in the non-violent area are the true criminals who “won”. They won by cheating and getting away with it, along with members of their family and friends who also “went along” which spreads and has impacted society for decades now and generations ahead. We myst address this. These are the cases being ignored in the innocence movement that make up the body of criminal cases and easily 40% of our jails, prisons and detention centers (which are prisons).

  2. Excellent post, pour ne rien changer

  3. Where are are the missing women who aren’t being exonerated? When a mother, daughter is wrongfully convicted, a family is destroyed as the children’s lives are torn apart?

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