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Kirk Bloodsworth, Darryl Hunt and Chris Ochoa: These men are just three of the hundreds of wrongly convicted who languished for years in prisons across our country for crimes they did not commit. The devastation they suffered is immeasurable: During the time they were wrongly imprisoned (for murder and other crimes in Maryland, North Carolina and Texas, respectively), their livelihoods were destroyed, and they suffered the loss of family members, friends and homes. The costs to public safety are great as well � while they were wrongly incarcerated, the actual perpetrators remained free to commit more crimes. The errors that led to the wrongful convictions of these three men are not unique to their cases. Indeed, it is no longer a mystery why wrongful convictions occur: Study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification, false confessions, bad lawyering on both sides (egregiously incompetent defense counsel and just as egregious prosecutorial misconduct), snitch and accomplice testimony, and faulty forensics are some of the key common causes of wrongful convictions in both capital and noncapital cases. We have also learned that most of the changes required to greatly improve the accuracy of our criminal justice system are not unreasonably time-consuming or costly. To the contrary, these reforms would entail minimal effort and resources when compared to the risks posed by an inaccurate, unfair system. So, the question remains: Why aren’t states doing everything they can to ensure that the right people are being convicted and that the innocent are protected? The short answer is that change is not always welcome and when it is, change is often slow. In some instances, it would require an overhaul of long-standing procedures, which is why it is necessary to convince lawmakers that a fairer and more accurate criminal justice system is feasible. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the defense, the prosecution and the public that strong safeguards exist to protect against wrongful imprisonment and reduce the number of overturned convictions. Three key areas for reform Small improvements in three key areas can help increase the accuracy and reliability of the criminal justice system. Faulty eyewitness identification, a primary factor in each of the aforementioned cases, is one of the leading causes of wrongful conviction and has been a factor in approximately 75% of the DNA exonerations in capital and noncapital cases. However, decades of empirical research have proven that practical changes to identification procedures, such as cautionary instructions to witnesses, effective use of fillers, full documentation of the lineup procedures along with a witness’s statement of certainty and double-blind administration, will significantly improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. False confessions have also played a significant role in approximately 20% of wrongful convictions. Confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, and can even overcome other types of evidence pointing to the defendant’s innocence (such as forensic science), which is why it is essential that they are reliable. In order for judges and juries to accurately assess the circumstances surrounding a confession, states must mandate the full electronic recording of custodial interrogations from the Miranda warning until the end of the interview. Pretrial discovery is another crucial safeguard that helps make the legal system more transparent and ensures due process. Suppression of exculpatory evidence was a factor in more than 30% of the first 74 DNA exonerations, and expanded discovery laws during the post-conviction process have contributed to overturned verdicts in several cases by bringing to light exculpatory evidence not turned over to the defense. Only through full pretrial discovery can we ensure a fair process. The good news is that guidelines and best practices for eyewitness lineup procedures have been successfully developed and implemented in several states and jurisdictions, including New Jersey, North Carolina and Wisconsin. To date, more than 500 police and sheriff’s departments across the country and several states have independently adopted procedures for electronically recording interrogations, and some states, such as Arizona, Massachusetts and North Carolina, are also moving to broaden their discovery laws. But much more needs to be done. Legislation addressing these issues is pending in several states, including California, Michigan and Tennessee. Policymakers in these states must acknowledge the urgency of adopting these measures and vote to fully fund bills that would improve eyewitness, recording and discovery procedures, among other reforms. Given the documented cases of miscarriages of justice � and the research indicating that many of the errors leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented � we have a moral duty to take the necessary steps to ensure our criminal justice system is as fair and accurate as possible. John F. Terzano is president of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

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