Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice

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

13
THE SANCTITY OF CRIMINAL LAW
Thoughts and Reflections on Wrongful
Conviction in Israel

ARYE RATTNER


Does It Really Happen?

During the 1980s and the early 1990s the conscience of many of us, in several countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and many others, was shaken by a number of instances that cast doubt on a cherished belief: that innocent people are seldom, if ever, convicted, and they are certainly not executed. Almost as if orchestrated in the way they came to public attention, completely unrelated cases of miscarriages of justice, not in which the guilty were freed but in which the totally innocent were severely punished, became front-page news and the subject of frequent discussion in the media. Thus, it is not a coincidence that a great deal of attention has been devoted since then to the subject of wrongful conviction from a rather more academic and scientific point of view.

Until the 1980s those who wrote on the subject, or who gave it serious thought, relied on newspaper accounts that surface, not infrequently but in numbers sufficiently small to make one believe that the prisons are overwhelmingly filled with the guilty; yet not so infrequently that the problem can be disregarded as a tragedy so ominous as to touch the nerve centers and the basic tenets of a criminal justice system. These newspaper accounts were collected by several authors (Borchard, 1932; Frank & Frank, 1957; Gardner, 1952; Radin, 1964), who usually added other cases gleaned from such sources as interviews with attorneys, court records, interviews with victims of false convictions, interviews with victims of crime, and firsthand knowledge. Their

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