Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice

By C. Ronald Huff; Martin Killias | Go to book overview

7
THE FALLIBILITY OF JUSTICE
IN CANADA
A Critical Examination of Conviction Review

KATHRYN M. CAMPBELL

The concept of miscarriages of justice or justice in error has become an accepted phenomenon in most Western jurisdictions in recent years. A burgeoning body of literature in the United States has demonstrated that not only do wrongful convictions and wrongful imprisonments occur far more frequently than expected, but several specific, systemic factors clearly contribute to their occurrence (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Gross et al., 2005; Huff, 2004; Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer, 2000; Westervelt & Humphrey, 2001). Factors such as eyewitness error, false confession, overreliance on jailhouse informants, errors in forensic analysis, and police and prosecutorial misconduct have been established as causative of these miscarriages of justice (Castelle & Loftus, 2001; Leo & Ofshe, 1998; Martin, 2001; Parker, Dewees, & Radelet, 2001; Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer, 2000; Zimmerman, 2001). Several high-profile cases have demonstrated that rarely does one error occur in isolation, but rather several factors often work in conjunction to contribute to these erroneous convictions. It is often only after many years of exhaustive legal research that the interplay of one error with others focused police attention on innocent individuals or caused evidence to be fabricated or misinterpreted in an incriminating manner, resulting in a wrongful conviction.

The Canadian context, consistent with the experiences in other common law jurisdictions, has evinced a number of wrongful convictions and imprisonments in recent years. Research has pointed to the existence of the usual contributing factors that foster these miscarriages of justice in this context (Denov & Campbell, 2005). A number of individuals in Canadian

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