The news this week includes the story of Eric Glisson, convicted in 1995 of the murder of a Bronx cab driver, who has spent the last 17 years in prison for a crime he apparently did not commit. During his incarceration, Glisson did some long-distance investigatory work, and turned up evidence that the crime was actually the work of two other men serving time for unrelated crimes, who confessed to the murder of the cabbie. Glisson wrote to the United States Attorney’s Office with the information he gathered, and they did some investigating of their own, then provided the results to the Bronx D.A.’s office. Glisson remains behind bars, at least for the time being, while, some might argue, the D.A.’s office looks for reasons to justify its mistake.
Instances of wrongful convictions are uncovered on a regular basis in the United States, particularly since DNA testing has been available as a forensic tool. According to the Innocence Project, in the more than 200 cases that have been overturned based upon DNA tests in the last 20 years, New York holds the record, with over 10% of the wrongful convictions. In addition to DNA testing, the discovery of new evidence and other issues also lead to criminal trials gone awry, such as the one involving Eric Glisson.
There are a number of different factors that contribute to wrongful convictions in the first place. They include misidentification by eyewitnesses; forensic evidence that later turns out to be based upon faulty scientific methods; false confessions based upon mental illness of the defendant or coercive methods used to obtain the confession; unreliable informant testimony; and police and prosecutorial misconduct. Of all these categories, the most common reason for wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification. Indeed, it played a role in 13 of the 24 cases in New York that were discovered as a result of DNA testing.
The most disturbing fact about eyewitness misidentification is not that it happens; rather, it is the fact that the frequency of these errors could be reduced through the implementation of procedures that affect the manner in which alleged victims and others identify the supposed perpetrators. New York, unfortunately, lags behind the majority of the states in legislation that would mandate these safeguards.
Of course, the best method of avoiding a wrongful conviction is to retain the services of an experience New York criminal lawyer to protect your interests.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016