Wrongful Convictions are a Grave Issue on Multiple Levels

Check out more papers on Death Penalty Human Rights Punishment

A study of exonerations over a 30-year period found that approximately 50% of those wrongfully convicted were African Americans. This same study also found that blacks are more likely to spend more time in prison before being released for a wrongful conviction than whites who are cleared. The below table is from the National Registry of Exonerations displaying the difference in years it takes for wrongful convictions to be overturned based on race (Chokshi, 2017).

The study also points out that even though 15% of murders are perpetrated by African Americans against white victims, 31% of African Americans exonerated were originally convicted of murdering a white person. Discrimination may be a factor in the disparity of these numbers. The study’s authors referred to prior research about eyewitness misidentification that concludes that black people are more likely to be misidentified than white people (Chokshi, 2017). As more of these exonerations take place, trends will need to be followed closely to determine how large a role race plays in determining one’s fate in the criminal justice system.

Around the time of Frank Lee Smith’s exoneration, more people had been removed and exonerated from death row in Florida than in any other state. In 2016, Florida’s death penalty process was found unconstitutional by state and federal supreme court decisions. A new Florida law was passed in 2017 requiring a unanimous jury vote to find both a factor warranting the death penalty and imposing the death penalty itself (Olmeda & Freeman, 2018).

Although this new law should result in a reduction in death penalty cases, Florida is still ranked 2nd in the U.S. for the number of inmates on death row, second only to California (“Death-Row Prisoners by State and Size of Death Row by Year,” n.d.). As long as exonerations continue to be found, there will always be the lingering question: how many sitting on death row are actually innocent?

Frank Lee Smith was an individual with a troubling criminal record, but he did not deserve to serve time for a crime he did not commit. The numerous issues with the prosecution of his case should cause much pause regarding the expectation of fairness in the criminal justice system. Concerns have been raised in the past about the disadvantages a defendant has compared to the prosecutor when it comes to resources, including financial, the police, and familiarity with the court system. Due to the disproportionate number of African Americans in the prison system, these concerns are magnified when the defendant is an African American.

There have also been concerns raised about the jurisdiction that handled the Frank Lee Smith case. It’s been suggested there is a pattern in the Broward County offices that pursuing the death penalty is a political win that ensures reelection. If someone attempts to remove someone from death row, it is seen as an affront to the prosecutor’s office (“A Closer Look - Interview - Jonathan Simon,” n.d.).

On a much larger scale, wrongful convictions are a grave issue on multiple levels. First, the person convicted loses a portion of their life (or potentially all of their life) due to mistakes made during the investigation and/or trial. Second, the person who committed the crime is not caught and may continue to commit crimes that may include murder. This puts a community at risk by giving them a false hope and sense of security that the perpetrator(s) have been caught when they may actually still be out there causing harm.

Reforms need to address every step of the process including the handling of eyewitnesses, the processing of lineups, jury selection, interviewing by detectives, and the careful processing of evidence and DNA. A system of checks and balances in the criminal justice system seems to be sorely lacking. There are checks and balances for much less severe situations in life. Any reform should include some type of counterbalancing method that will help mitigate the potential for misconduct.

In closing, Frank Lee Smith’s family did finally reach a financial settlement in 2013 with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for $340,000. The settlement included a statement that there was no admission of wrongdoing by the sheriff’s office.

An attorney for the defense, Michael Wrubel made the following statement in response to the small amount of the settlement in comparison to other settlements provided for wrongful convictions, “I think if we’d had 10 juries, two of them would be totally outraged [and] another two would probably not really have cared what happened [to him] because of Frank’s criminal history – the very criminal history that made Frank an easy target for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

Wrongful Convictions Are A Grave Issue On Multiple Levels. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved July 17, 2024 , from

Save time with Studydriver!

Get in touch with our top writers for a non-plagiarized essays written to satisfy your needs

Get custom essay

Stuck on ideas? Struggling with a concept?

A professional writer will make a clear, mistake-free paper for you!

Get help with your assignment
Leave your email and we will send a sample to you.
Stop wasting your time searching for samples!
You can find a skilled professional who can write any paper for you.
Get unique paper

I'm Amy :)

I can help you save hours on your homework. Let's start by finding a writer.

Find Writer