Educational Resources

The impact of Human Factors on Wrongful Convictions

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Mark Godsey.

Mark Godsey, co-founder and director of the Ohio Innocence Project.

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.

The OIP's East Cleveland 3: Wrongful Convictions and Exonerations

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Ohio Summit on Wrongful Convictions

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  • 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 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