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Citizens' Attitudes Toward Wrongful Convictions

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2012 Pages: 51-69
Marvin Zalman; Matthew J. Larson; Brad Smith
Date Published
March 2012
19 pages
This article reports on citizens' attitudes regarding the issue of wrongful conviction.
Perhaps no problem challenges the legitimacy of the criminal justice system more than the conviction of factually innocent individuals. Numerous highly publicized exonerations that occurred since 1989 have raised the visibility of wrongful conviction, eliciting the attention of both scholars and policymakers. Much of the research in this area focuses on the causes and incidence of the phenomenon. Despite the growing body of research, however, there has been no examination of how citizens view this problem. Using data from a statewide survey of Michigan residents, the present study aims to fill that gap in the literature by reporting on citizens' attitudes regarding the issue of wrongful conviction. Overall, the results of this exploratory study suggest that respondents not only recognize the incidence of wrongful conviction but also believe that such errors occur with some regularity. Further results show that respondents believe wrongful convictions occur frequently enough to justify major criminal justice system reform. Attitudes varied significantly across demographic groups as well. Additional findings and policy implications are discussed. (Published Abstract)