It is a fear many people have. Being falsely accused of a crime would be terrifying, especially if the police and prosecutor say that they have evidence against you. After all, how do you prove something you didn’t do? In television and movies the protagonist is always vindicated, but this is real life after all. According to Ohio State University, as many as 10,000 people are wrongly convicted each year in our justice system. Just how could this happen?
False accusations and convictions can happen for a variety of reasons. One is the reliance some investigators place on witnesses. Contrary to popular belief, eye witness testimony is extremely unreliable. Our minds are designed to scan for general facts, not hone in on specific details. In addition, our brain will actually fill in information it does not know with what it conjures up just to make a coherent dialogue. This is not malicious intent on the part of the witness, just how our brain works. The result of this is that if they see someone who they believe was wearing a brown jacket and jeans and the next person they see if a picture of you wearing a black jacket, they may combine the two to the point they really believe you were the first person they saw.
Next is something often referred to as the “CSI Effect.” This is the effect popular television shows have had on investigations and juries. Because these shows make it seem like every case relies upon trace evidence, too much emphasis is put on it. You may be surprised to learn that a clean DNA sample is very rarely obtained, instead generally it is some kind of trace evidence like hair which can only be narrowed down to a segment of the population. When this is presented to the jury, they may put so much emphasis on what is really an unreliable piece of evidence that a conviction may be established incorrectly.
As you can see, there are several factors working against the defendant in a criminal case. Even if you are innocent, a jury which has been raised on television shows glorifying the prosecution and demonizing the accused will definitely work against you. An investigation that may be based on flimsy evidence only made important by pop culture may take the attention off of the actual criminal and onto you. Be careful, and take careful legal precautions if you find yourself in this situation.