Conclusions from an International Overview
C. RONALD HUFF AND MARTIN KILLIAS
The risk of wrongfully convicting the innocent is not merely a matter of an innocent defendant being confronted with evil, incompetent, or lazy decision makers who place their own interest above the interest of avoiding miscarriages of justice. If eliminating unqualified people from key positions within the criminal justice system remains a permanent and uncontested goal, the fact is that procedural structures can far more easily and permanently be amended than can the morality of individuals. For this reason, this project has been undertaken with the purpose of discovering factors related to procedures and practices in all sectors of criminal justice that might, with some regularity, contribute to wrongful convictions. In the foreground of our project is the risk of convicting innocent people for offenses they did not commit. Obviously, there are many more forms of miscarriages of justice, such as violations of procedural rules, errors in the interpretation of relevant laws, excessive or otherwise inappropriate sentences, or even the failure to convict a guilty person (certainly a miscarriage of justice from the perspective of the victim). Although these issues are far from irrelevant, addressing the problem of wrongful convictions of innocent people deserves first priority, particularly in an international perspective, because such errors may be less idiosyncratically related to specific characteristics of national laws, and because it is, in any respect, the most serious type of miscarriage of justice.
As the chapters included in this volume have shown, the risk of convicting innocent people is probably not equally distributed across nations, nor is it necessarily the same at all levels of national systems. In this concluding