On October 2nd, 2017, supporters of the innocence movement will observe International Wrongful Conviction Day. Every year the number of innocent people in prison is increasing and International Wrongful Conviction Day is an opportunity to learn more about why wrongful convictions occur, what corrective measures are being taken and how to prevent future injustices. This day also gives laypeople and professionals the chance to combine forces to spread the word regarding this continuing American tragedy.
A few reasons why a day like this is important would be the fact that at this very moment there are human beings sitting in prison cells convicted of crimes they did not commit or have any involvement with—and for every innocent person in prison there is a family that suffers alongside them. If this isn’t cringe worthy enough, then consider that for every wrongful conviction there is a victim that has been misled and denied the truth.
And for every innocent person in prison, for every suffering family, for every misled victim there is a real agent of injustice that deserves to be held accountable.
These aren’t baseless speculations, these are facts. Since 1989 there have been more than two thousand exonerations—40% of them occurring in the last six years, with 166 in 2016 alone. We know there are innocent people in prison and we know that faulty eyewitness accounts are a leading cause for wrongful convictions, but what’s unacceptable is that last year 41% of wrongful convictions were due to official misconduct. We know that officials can do something about this because since 2003 there have been 225 exonerations based on an official admission from the prosecutor’s office. (Note: in 2014, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office celebrated its progressive move to activate a conviction review unit, but has since only made two public admissions of a wrongful conviction.)
On October 2nd we can do more than just acknowledge the injustices that occur in our justice system far too often. For starters we can seek out the exonerated, their families, victims that have been lied to and we can offer them a platform to tell their stories. We can contact our local law schools and innocence projects and tell them that we no longer want to be passive participants in our civic responsibilities and that what we want is to help free every innocent person from prison. We can crowd every courtroom so that every judge who might be indifferent, every prosecutor who might skirt due process, every defense attorney who might be derelict in his or her duties can know that we are watching and we will report back to the world what it is that we are observing. We can flood the in-boxes of our mayors, our district attorneys, our state attorney generals, every local and state politician and tell them that we want real change right now.
By Edward Ramirez, 9/29/2017
If you would like to contact Eddie:
Edward Ramirez – DN6284
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426-0246