In his book, The Innocence Commission, Jon Gould provides a compelling analysis of the criminal justice system’s flaws that lead to wrongful convictions. The book focuses on the work of North Carolina’s Innocence Inquiry Commission, which was establish in 2006 to investigate and address wrongful convictions. This review provides a summary of the book’s main arguments and themes.
The Problem of Wrongful Convictions
Gould begins by outlining the scope of the problem of wrongful convictions. He notes that despite the existence of safeguards such as the right to a fair trial, wrongful convictions still occur at an alarming rate. Gould argues that wrongful convictions are not simply the result of individual errors or biases, but rather they are a product of systemic flaws in the criminal justice system. These flaws include inadequate legal representation, false confessions, unreliable eyewitness testimony, and flawed forensic evidence.
The Work of the Innocence Inquiry Commission
Gould then turns to the work of the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which was create to investigate claims of innocence and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support them. Gould describes the Commission’s procedures, which involve a multi-stage review process and a high burden of proof. He also discusses some of the challenges the Commission faces, including limited resources and resistance from some prosecutors and law enforcement officials.
The Impact of the Commission
Gould argues that the Innocence Inquiry Commission has had a significant impact on the criminal justice system in North Carolina. He cites several examples of cases where the Commission’s work led to exonerations or reduced sentences. He also notes that the Commission’s work has helped to raise public awareness of the problem of wrongful convictions and has prompted calls for reform.
The Importance of Empirical Research
One of the strengths of Gould’s book is his emphasis on empirical research. He draws on extensive data from the Commission’s work to support his arguments about the causes of wrongful convictions and the effectiveness of the Commission’s procedures. He also uses data to demonstrate the impact of the Commission on the criminal justice system.
The Need for Reform Finally
Gould argues that the work of the Innocence Inquiry Commission highlights the need for broader reforms in the criminal justice system. He identifies several areas where reforms are needed, including legal representation for defendants, eyewitness identification procedures, and forensic science. He also argues that reforms must be based on empirical evidence and must involve collaboration between prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other stakeholders.
Overall, The Innocence Commission is a well-researched and thought-provoking book that sheds light on the problem of wrongful convictions and the potential for reforms in the criminal justice system. Gould’s emphasis on empirical research and his focus on the work of the Commission make this book a valuable resource for scholars, policymakers, and anyone interested in the criminal justice system. The book’s insights into the causes of wrongful convictions and the potential for reform make it a must-read for anyone concerned about the fairness and effectiveness of our criminal justice system.