Prior to the advent of DNA analysis, wrongful convictions were considered as being primarily isolated incidents. DNA evidence made it possible to revisit certain cases, murder and rape cases predominantly, and either prove or disprove the jury convictions.
Upon reexamination, many of these cases were found to be fraught with irregularities, either factual or procedural, that violated the rights of the convicted party during the process. Wrongful conviction claims against public entity officials have gained prominence since, and are now classified into the following broad categories:
- Arrest claim: may be filed when the probable cause behind the arrest is insufficient
- False imprisonment claim: may be filed when there is a lack of evidence/need for prison detention
- Malicious prosecution claim: may be filed when one party has knowingly and with malicious intent initiated baseless litigation against another party
- Due process claim: may be filed when there is cause to question the steps in the process proceeding the initial prosecution
- Monell claim: may be filed when an entity has policies in place that result in a violation of rights
Wrongful Claims: By the Numbers
Since the 1990s, the demographic pattern of wrongful prosecution and conviction claimants are as follows: 47% black, 40% white and 12% Hispanic, while 2% fall under another category. As for gender, 91% of the claimants are men and 9% are women.
Homicides and sexual assaults are the most prominent crimes that receive claims, 43% and 27% respectively. The average time a claimant has served in prison prior to the claim is 14 years.
Witness misidentification is the single most significant contributor to false convictions. The other is unreliable forensics, seeing as some of the techniques implemented may be prone to error. False confessions have accounted for 25%-40% of cases in recent years.
The Question of Insurance
With wrongful convictions, insurance inevitably comes into play. Many arguments have been presented regarding what policy is triggered in response to the claim, especially since a notable majority of violations against claimants tend to commence during the arrest or the indictment, depending on the case at hand.