chapter  5
Innocent Defendants: Divergent Case Outcomes and What They Teach Us
ByJon B. Gould, Julia Carrano, Richard A. Leo, Katie Hail-Jares
Pages 18

Wrongful convictions signal the justice system’s failure to perform its most fundamental duty-sorting the innocent from the guilty. Yet the focus on exonerations has obscured the errors the criminal justice system prevents, the innocent defendants who are identified and released before conviction. What explains the different outcomes? Why are some innocent defendants convicted and spend years in prison before exoneration (“erroneous convictions”), while others are released before trial or are acquitted on the basis of their factual innocence (“near misses”)? What factors could have predicted these dramatically divergent outcomes? Despite substantial scholarly research on high-profile DNA (see Garrett, 2011) and non-DNA (see Gross & Shaffer, 2012) wrongful conviction cases, these questions remain largely unanswered.