Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice

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

9
THE VULNERABILITY OF DUTCH
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE TO
WRONGFUL CONVICTION

CHRISJE BRANTS

The problem of wrongful convictions has only recently arrived on the public agenda in the Netherlands. Even so, it appears to be a question that vexes defense lawyers, the media, and some legal scholars and criminologists, rather than representatives of the criminal justice system or judges. When, in 1992 a multidisciplinary study—the first of its kind— examined thirty-five cases that had been sent in by defense lawyers who were not convinced of their clients' guilt (Crombag, Van Koppen & Wagenaar, 1994), the reaction in the legal community was one of disbelief and skepticism. Although the authors did not contend that all of these cases actually were wrongful convictions and merely pointed to possible mistakes caused mostly by flawed reasoning on the part of the court in the face of the available evidence, judges, prosecutors, and legal scholars denounced the study itself as flawed and legally unsound.1 Several other (case) studies followed, some by the same authors, some by ex-policemen or journalists, and some by amateurs who set up Web sites to convince the public that “their” man, although convicted, was really innocent.

Defense lawyers have managed to get new hearings for some of those convicted in these cases; some have had their convictions overturned and some have not. Even in a number of the successful cases, however, prosecutors and judges have insisted they still believe the original verdict to be correct.2 Indeed, at a recent conference one of the authors of the 1992 study, Van Koppen, also declared that of the thirty-five cases it covered, probably only two, at most three, actually were wrongful convictions.3 If we take the term

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