Even though the criminal justice system is supposed to have checks and balances, the sad reality is that individuals are wrongfully convicted. In some of these cases, law enforcement officials act inappropriately and others were settled based on inaccurate or incomplete evidence. At the same time, the advent of DNA testing has proved to be a powerful ally in demonstrating innocence by providing clear scientific evidence.
So far this year, 40 people have been exonerated for crimes they didn’t commit, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. A closer look at the data, however, reveals a shocking disparity: Women account for only five of this year’s exonerations.
A report in the Huffington Post takes a closer look at this problem. In examining at pertinent statistics, it seems as though higher rates of incarceration among men don’t fully account for the differential in exoneration. When dealing with violent crimes, which are usually classified as felonies, the gap between convicted men and women shrinks quite dramatically. In fact, 37 percent of women are in prison for violent crimes, according to the report.
The author of the report points out that DNA testing generally isn’t a factor in exoneration cases involving women as the wrongfully convicted individual. As such, it may be much more difficult to definitively prove that a woman didn’t commit the crime for which she has been accused.
A person’s gender shouldn’t matter when dealing with serious criminal charges. If the evidence doesn’t support prosecutors’ claims, then the burden of proof isn’t met. As such, it’s important to aggressively investigate cases and the strength of evidence provided by police.
In many ways, exonerations are very bittersweet. While it’s encouraging that justice has been served, it’s still very concerning that there are holes big enough in the criminal justice system that allow men and women sit behind bars for years — or life — when they aren’t guilty.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Are Women Left Behind in Exonerations?” Alison Flowers, June 6, 2014