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The impact of Human Factors on Wrongful Convictions
Justice is our goal as Americans, but it is not always our reality, particularly in the criminal justice system.
Those of us who work in the innocent movement devote our careers to helping people who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. One of the most common questions we hear when people learn about wrongful convictions is “How can this happen?” The answer to that question is both simple and complex: wrongful convictions occur because we are human.
In some wrongful conviction cases, a person acts with hatred, bias, or fear to help ensure that an innocent person is convicted. But much more frequently, wrongful convictions occur when well-intentioned, honest, intelligent people make mistakes.
As humans, we make mistakes each day. Our memories may fail, our perceptions may be faulty. We may be distracted or confused, or misled by suggestions of others. Usually, our mistakes cause us little more than embarrassment and inconvenience.
But sometimes we make mistakes when we serve as jurors or witnesses, as experts or investigators, or as judges, prosecutors, or defense attorneys. Those mistakes can have grave consequences.
We cannot stop being human, but we can learn from our mistakes. Learn more.
Black Robes, Black Lives: The Duty of the Courts to Understand and Address Systemic Racism
OIP Welcomes Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor left office in December 2022 due to Ohio’s mandatory retirement provisions for judicial officers
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is the 10th chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio and the first woman to lead the state’s judicial branch. Elected twice as a justice and twice as chief justice, she has served as a private lawyer, magistrate, common pleas judge, prosecutor and Ohio lieutenant governor and Director of the Department of Public Safety. Chief Justice O’Connor has led many substantial judicial reforms, in Ohio and nationally, including a focus on the impact of fines, fees, and bail practices on the poor that led to substantial rule changes in Ohio in 2020. Her ongoing initiatives include data collection and racial fairness in the court system, conviction reform, expansion of technological innovation in the courts, improved civic education for school children, citizen awareness in judicial elections, and increased funding for civil legal aid efforts. Chief Justice O’Connor also is a regional and national leader on governmental responses to America’s drug epidemic.
On November 12, 2020, Chief Justice O’Connor was the keynote speaker at the annual Friends of OIP program. Her remarks focused on the courts’ duty to understand and address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
The OIP's East Cleveland 3: Wrongful Convictions and Exonerations
In 1995, three teenagers in East Cleveland, Ohio, 16 year old Laurese Glover, 17 year old Derrick Wheatt, and 17 year old Eugene Johnson were arrested and charged with murder based in part on the testimony of a 14 year old girl who observed the murder. Laurese, Derrick, and Eugene spent the next 20 years of their lives in prison for a crime they did not commit. They became known as the East Cleveland Three.
OIP is proud to have played a part in securing the exonerations of Derrick, Eugene and Laurese. In their freedom, these three men have devoted themselves to educating the public about the horror of wrongful convictions. With generous funding from the Dayton Legal Heritage Foundation, OIP is happy to provide lesson plans for teachers and educators about the East Cleveland Three. These lesson plans align with Ohio’s curriculum standards and are available free of charge. To access the lesson plans or get more information about how OIP can assist with education in your classroom, please contact OIP’s director of policy and engagement, Pierce Reed, at email@example.com.
Ohio Summit on Wrongful Convictions
- Session 1: Welcomes by Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Michael O’Malley and Dean Robert Scharf, Case Western Reserve University School of Law and Special Guest Mr. Rickey Jackson (Exonerated Cerson)
- Session 2: Opening Remarks by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Supreme Court of Ohio (Introduction by Dean Verna Williams, University of Cincinnati College of Law)
- Session 3: Why Does it Happen? The Causes of Wrongful Conviction. Panel Moderator: Mark Godsey, Director of OIP; Panelists: Rebecca Brown, Director of Policy, Innocence Project, NYC; Chief William Brooks of the Norwood (MA) Police Dept., Carmen Naso, Sr. Instructor in Law, Case Western Reserve University College of Law, and Russell Tye, Director, Conviction Integrity Unit, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
- Session 4: Prosecutors' Perspectives Prosecutors Discussion about Wrongful Convictions. Panel moderator: Russell Tye, Director, Conviction Integrity Unit, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; Panelists: David Angel, Asst. Dist. Attorney, Santa Clara (CA) District Attorney’s Office, Dawn Boswell, Director, Conviction Integrity Unit, Tarrant County (TX) District Attorney’s Office, Cynthia Garza, Special Fields Bureau Chief, Dallas County (TX) District Attorney’s Office; Mark Hale, Unit Chief, Conviction Review Unit, Kings County (NY)
- Session 5: Starting Points Innovative Approaches to Wrongful Convictions. Panel Moderator: Mark Godsey; Panelists: Lindsay Guice Smith, Executive Director, North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim, Lake County, IL; Beth Tanner, Assistant Direcotr, North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission
- Session 6: Ethical and Professionalism Aspects of Wrongful Convictions Joseph Caliguiri, Chief Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Office of Disciplinary Counsel (OH)
- Session 8: Why Choose To Go To The Moon? Patricia Cummings, Chief, Conviction Review Unit, Philadelphia (PA) District Attorney’s Office