The Experience of a Continental Law Country
The risk of wrongfully convicting the innocent is, obviously, related to the extent to which the criminal justice system seeks to establish the truth in a balanced and fair manner. This, in turn, has to do with the legal safeguards and their respect, but also with the legal culture surrounding the establishment of relevant facts by the police and all other parties involved. In this chapter, I first give an overview of basic features of the Swiss criminal justice system.1 In the second part, I review some cases of known wrongful convictions and highlight the critical role of police and prosecutorial behavior. In a final section, some consideration is given to problems specifically in the fields of police, forensic science, and medical examinations. I argue that professionals in these fields need to become more open to recognize the risks of errors at all levels of an investigation, and develop strategies to deal with such risks.
Switzerland has a typical continental criminal justice system, sharing many features with virtually all other continental and Scandinavian countries, and particularly with Germany, France, and Austria. In some respects, however, it also shares many features with the United States, its constitutional order being heavily influenced by the American model as it emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.