Center on Wrongful Convictions

by Geoffrey Redick, producer

None of us believes the criminal justice system works perfectly. But few of us, perhaps, imagine the extent to which the system is corrupted by the people who are sworn to protect us. Too often, police, prosecutors, and judges strive for convictions — instead of justice — and that leads to a dangerous tendency to ignore the cases where the eivdence just doesn’t fit, where the accused are actually innocent. The work of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, and the other organizations like it, shows how often the verdicts of the courts are wrong. Rob Warden has been focused on the courts for decades, first as an investigative reporter, and now as the Executive Director of the Center. He says that even in the face of conflicting DNA evidence, prosecutors often refuse to admit their mistakes. In some cases, evidence is even withheld to preserve the conviciton, and the result is that an innocent person languishes in prison. Warden has several ideas for reforming the criminal justice system, including holding prosecutors civilly liable for negligence and reforming the ways police interview suspects. We’ll also hear from Sage Smith, the Director of Client Services at the Center. He spent almost thirty years in prison, much of that time as a law clerk for inmates on death row. Now he helps the newly exonerated transition back into society. What should frighten everyone about the issue of wrongful convictions is how easy it is to end up in prison, even if you’re innocent. All it takes is knowing someone who gets murdered, or getting picked out of a line up. Then, after hours of interrogation and a false confession, your fate is all but sealed. That’s what happened to Johnnie Lee Savory, one of the people we’ll hear from today.

 

Rob Warden’s latest book is True Stories of False Confessions.

Click here for a list of exonerations throughout the United States.

Click here for a list of other innocence organizations.