Our Justice System Creates Incentives for Wrongful Convictions

Nov 24, 2018


McNeely Stephenson says criminal justice reform needed to extinguish incentives for prosecutors to quickly convict sometimes innocent defendants


New Albany, Indiana,  -- A fair trial is a constitutional right, but incentives and election pressures for prosecutors reward quick convictions that can sometimes put innocent people behind bars.  The attorneys at McNeely Stephenson said reform is needed, and the firm’s criminal defense division is committed to protecting clients from wrongful convictions.

“Too many times prosecutors go after innocent people to drive up their conviction rates and manage case load,” said Larry Church.  “Not everyone who is arrested is guilty, but the pressure for innocent people to settle a case and admit guilt to avoid jail time is very real.”

Church, who works in the New Albany office of McNeely Stephenson, is an experienced defense attorney who is passionate about protecting the innocent.

Contrary to plots in Law and Order episodes, in real life once a prosecutor decides to file felony charges, that defendant will most certainly be convicted, research shows.  A 2009 study by the Bureau of Justice found that 66 percent of those charged with felonies were convicted, while only 1 percent were acquitted.   In most cases, defendants were pressured to settle rather than go to trial.

“Most of the time, prosecutors are not acting with malice when achieving these convictions,” said Marc Tawfik.  “Rather, they know how to work the justice system in their favor and are rewarded for upholding ‘safety’ even if that means making an error.”

Tawfik a Louisville native, he has many years of experience in the courtroom and brings that expertise to the table when he sits beside a client.

“Our attorneys know how to aggressively represent our clients and block easy shortcuts by prosecutors,” Tawfik said. “Our clients have a voice.”

 Tawfik also calls for major reform of the money bail system.  Many times defendants accept plea bargains because they can’t afford bail or a lengthy detention. They risk jobs and housing and the opportunity to support their families when they refuse to settle and wait months for a trial to prove their innocence. 

Whether a defendant is assigned to a lenient or a harsh bail magistrate significantly affects the level of bail set, and this has a direct impact on case outcomes.  Even relatively low bail amounts are a hardship for some defendants.  Research by the Brookings Institute shows that for those defendants who needed $200 or less to secure their freedom, 40 percent were unable to pay and remained in pre-trial detention for an average of 72 days.

“We work hard to prevent this from happening to our clients,” Tawfik said.

The New Albany branch of McNeely Stephenson assists clients in criminal defense, as well as their families. McNeely Stephenson has represented clients in more than 90 counties throughout Kentucky and Indiana and in at least 15 states.

Tags: Wire, Legal Newswire, United States, English

Copyright © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.