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Final

Sociology 3312A/B Final: WRONGFULLY-CONVICTED-EXAM


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 3312A/B
Professor
Kim Luton
Study Guide
Final

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WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION: CANADIAN LEGAL RIGHTS
If charged with offence under fed/prov law you have the right
o To be told promptly of the offence,
o Tried within a reasonable time,
o Not to be compelled to testify at your own trial,
o To be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair and public hearing by an
independent and impartial tribunal,
o Not to be denied reasonable bail without cause,
o Not to be subjected to any cruel/unusual punishment,
o To be tried by a jury for serious charges,
o Not to be tried or punished twice for the same offence
o Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Legal Rights: section 7 - 14
FACTUAL INNOCENCE
o Distinct from Legal Innocence.
o Legal innocence: a defendant who is acquitted by a judge/jury after having a trial.
o Factual innocence: does not matter what stage the criminal proceeding is in. If a person is factually innocent, it means
they did not commit the alleged crime of which they were charged/convicted.
WC FACTORS
o Issues of Race, Gender, Class, Age, Mental Illness/Disability
o Forensic Evidence
o Circumstantial Evidence
o Falsified Evidence
o Hidden/Withheld Evidence
o Prior Record
o Tunnel Vision
o Eyewitness Testimony
o Informants - Plea Deal for Testimony Against Defendant - Rewards for
info
o Pretrial Publicity of Case
o Judge’s Opinion of Case/Bias
o Bias of Lawyer - Want to Win Case
NOTORIOUS CASES
o Dreyfus Case French captain charged with selling military secrets Germans in Oct 1894. Wealthy, ambitious,
unpopular in the War Office which prepared a secret document that degraded him. Convicted and sent to Devil’s
Island (Guiana). A new head - Major Picquart suspected there might be another traitor who was responsible Walsin
Esterhazi alarmed at Picquart’s doubts more forgeries were fabricated to ensure Dreyfus conviction. Emile Zola
attempted to exonerate Dreyfus suggesting his conviction was a crime against humanity, but was found guilty of libel
and forced to flee France. 1906 finally exonerated when document determined to be forgery that had convicted
Dreyfus. Miscarriage of Justice no single cause handwriting similarity, anti-Semitism
o Leo Frank Case- Jewish business man convicted in 1913 based on perjured testimony of real killer for murder of 13yr.
old Mary Phagan. Governor doubted his guilt and commuted his sentence but angry crowd lynched him. Posthumous
pardon in 1986 after Alonzo Mann - key witness admitted as a 14yr old he had seen Jim Coley the janitor carrying the
body. Kept quiet because life had been threatened. Miscarriage racism, white fear, anger, rape allegations
o Scottsboro Boys -1927 Alabama 9 black males riding a freight and 2 white girls caught illegally riding the train
alleged they had been raped. Convicted by all-white jury and sentenced to death (except youngest). Many years of
appeals, retrials, reconvictions multiple violations of due process, perjury, racism spent 104 years collectively in
jail. Women created story to explain why in company of Blacks. 50 years later, sole surviving defendant granted
unconditional pardon. Miscarriage racism, age of defendants perjury, public fear, inadequate counsel
o Lindberg Baby Kidnapping Crime of the Century 1934-36 - 2 year search for baby led to arrest of Bruno
Hauptmann German immigrant with criminal record. Hauptmann friends with Isidor Fisch German immigrant con
artist who Hauptmann had entrusted money to. Fisch dies and Hauptmann opened package Fisch had left with him
marked bills from ransom paid for Charles Lindberg spent money and led police to Hauptmann. Executed.
Miscarriage circus like trial, likely suspect, pressure to convict, judge aligning with prosecution.
o Bias of Police - Need a Conviction
o Interrogation Tactics
o Marginalization
o Wrong Time/Wrong Place
o Pressure on Police to Convict
o Ability of Afford Good Defense
Lawyer
o No Pre-trail
o Poor Evidence Collection
o Convicting the Most Plausible Suspect
o Should be Guilty Beyond a
Reasonable Doubt
o Noble cause
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WEEK 2: History of Wrongful Conviction and AIDWYC
Rule of Law
o Everyone is subjected to the ordinary law of the land
o No one is above the law & applies equally - regardless of gender, class, race, socioeconomic status/ any other
characteristic
o All individuals, persons and governments shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action
o Helps to create a divide between objectivity and subjectivity
o The Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes a reference to the Rule of Law
o Essential in the very definition of democracy- necessary for a democracy to operate, everyone must have a voice,
must have the equal right to vote etc
o Albert Dicey: Written law outweighs arbitrary law, and authority is only rightly exercised if it is written in law 
3 principles of rule of law by Albert Dicey:
o 1. Supremacy of laws→ opposed to the influence of arbitrary power
o 2. Equality before the law→ the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land
o 3. The law of the constitution→ as a consequence of the rights of individuals
o Charter rule = to be convicted of an offence, judge or jury must believe beyond a reasonable doubt
The Social Reality of Wrongful Convictions (1%)
o We don't know how many people are wrongfully convicted each year because not every case is found/brought to light
o What we do know is "just the tip of the iceberg"
o "Double edged sword: people lost faith in the justice system when someone is convicted and then exonerated"
o Reintegration back into society becomes extremely difficult even if the supposed offender is acquitted; stigma
remains
Who's Overrepresented?
o Underpriviledged - frequently the ones who are wrongfully convicted (lack of resources)
o Wrongfully convicted may apply for a "Ministerial Review" of their case under C 696.1 of the Criminal Code
o Usually lower SES, visible minorities, and previous criminal records are wrongfully convicted - not just human
errors, but an institutional concern
o Aboriginal people are 4% of the population, but 18-20% of the prison population
o Usually victims of poor or inadequate legal counsel and social inequality
Why?
o The legal system is one that maintains it's power- the justice system is set up for the middle class and upper class
o There is research to suggest that anyone who is "different" is more at risk for being wrongfully convicted
o Police bias towards certain populations can contribute to this fact
Factors Leading to Wrongful Convictions
* Eyewitness Misidentification:
o People often have difficulties distinguishing individuals of a race other than their own in a line up
o Problematic bc when there is a lack of evidence, jurors may take eyewitness testimony as fact
o 52% of wrongful convictions involved eyewitness error= the most common factor
* Perjured Testimony/ Jailhouse Informants:
o Alleged confession of guilt by an accused to a fellow inmate who has been planted by prosecution or police
o Inmates are promised a deal for their perjured testimony
* Mishandling of Evidence and Forensic Errors:
o Issues with chain of custody
o Contamination
o Example: hole in blood vial (Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey case)
o Example: Wesley Myers was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, and the police neglected to test blood and hair
found on his girlfriend's body that would have cleared his name as a suspect
* Tunnel Vision:
o A leading factor in wrongful convictions
o When investigative teams prematurely focus on a suspect with only some evidence, all other leads are ignored
o Hydraulic pressure- intense public pressure to make an arrest and/or a conviction despite the existence of ambiguous
or contradictory evidence- often in high-profile cases
o Once people have their mind set on you they often ignore other possibilities
o Example: if they go into the autopsy thinking that this was a homicide, they see all the forensic evidence that way
* False Expert Testimony:
o Uneducated forensic scientists (e.g. pathologist) 
o The interpretation or bias and beliefs of the scientist may interfere the objective science
o Meant to educate the court- not in support of one side or the other
o But experts sometimes see themselves as belonging to a side, rather than a neutral expert sharing their opinion
o Exaggerating circumstantial forensic evidence
o Withholding forensic evidence that may exonerate
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* False Confessions:
o People given an intense interrogation can actually start have false memories and believe they committed the crime,
even though they didn't
o Poor mental health, the use of coercive interrogation techniques, low IQ, lack of education, funds, knowledge of the
criminal system lead to false confession (Brendan Dassey interrogation video)
o Hard to fight a battle where no one/limited people believe you
* Lack of Forensic Evidence:
o Ex. man convicted for murder of his wife when it wasn’t a homicide, of course his DNA was all over
* Ineffective Assistance of Defence Council:
o Incompetent/inexperienced lawyers might give bad advice
o Often the accused are of low SES and are assigned a public defender rather than an experienced criminal lawyer
o Some defense lawyers are more focused on the # of cases that they can put their name on rather than winning every
case
o Lawyer encouraging to plead guilty and take the plea deal to get a lesser sentence and quicken a verdict
o Between a rock and a hard place with either a reduced sentence with a confession or the threat of a long one if found
guilty by trial
o “Its 2 years or 10, its your choice” – said to Ron Dalton (AIDWYC video)
* Professional Misconduct:
o Judge, Police, prosecution etc.
o The justice system is taxed and trying to push cases through quickly
o Biases
o Poor or biased direction given to jury by judge
o Police coercion in interrogations: long/intense and police begin to lie and coerce (ex. Brendan Dassey interrogation
video)
o R v. Stinchcombe → 1991 ruling by the SCC, prosecutors must provide the defence with all evidence that could
possibly be relevant to the case, even if it works against the crowns case - inculpatory and exculpatory
* Demonizing Suspects:
o Being 'deviant" compared to the population you are in
Every Wrongful Conviction involves errors in 3 Stages (Factors of W.C)
o System errors: errors by police, prosecutors, defence counsel and judges
o Non-system errors: eyewitness and expert errors, false accusations and confessions, community pressure
Pre-trial (Investigative errors)
o Mishandle evidence (police fabricate evidence)
o Tunnel vision (emphasis on conviction rather than justice)
Trial (adjudicative errors)
o Rules on admissibility and handling of evidence may allow unreliable evidence to be presented without safeguards for
its use
o Judge leading the jury in a biased manner
o Jury doesn't understand the law
o Witness testimony error (i.e. people may have difficulty distinguishing individuals of a race other than their own in a
line-up)
o Location bias (i.e. small town bias)
o Media bias
o What lawyer/assistance you can receive (i.e. lawyers who prompt clients to plead guilty for a lesser sentence)
o Faulty expert testimony during trial (i.e. improperly trained which can lead to incorrect sentencing)
o Prosecution leaving out evidence or not handing all of the evidence to defence
Post-trial (review limitations)
o Maintaining innocence can upset the system and won't be able to be let out early
o Low SES = harder to appeal case
o Lack of resources once convicted
o Harder to take a small case to bigger courts
o Hard to determine who is innocent vs. who's just saying it
Differences in Wrongful Convictions and in the Criminal Justice System
o Vast racial and class differences
o Criminal law is not applied equally to all classes (upper v. lower)
o Judges have value systems that shape their view which they convey onto defendants
o Judges are not willing to advocate for something that will reduce their power
o Higher courts are seen as "gatekeepers" (i.e. the higher a case goes up the system, the less chance an error will be
recognized)
o Canadian Justice System recognizes that it makes mistakes since it's a human system
o Hard for someone to be exonerated once they are wrongfully convicted
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find more resources at oneclass.com
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