Are Innocent People Convicted of Crimes at the Same Rate as Guilty People Get Away?

No. The number of guilty who go free dwarfs the number of innocent who get convicted. Contrary to popular belief, most prosecutors don’t want to convict innocent people, and they have a number of ways to insure that they don’t.

The first way is to decline to file charges. Prosecutors are trained to ask three questions before filing any charge:

  • Has a crime been committed?
  • Did the accused commit it?
  • Can they prove it to the satisfaction of an impartial Court?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” they will not charge, no matter how much pressure is put on them to file charges.

Have you ever asked yourself what you’d want in a lawyer if you were charged with a crime?

My answer: “If you are innocent, you will want a great prosecutor on the case. He’ll figure out that you are innocent and drop the charges. If you are guilty, you will want a nitwit for a defense lawyer. He’ll screw up and I’ll get your conviction set aside for ineffective assistance of counsel.”

If, at any time during the prosecution, the prosecutor decides that the prosecution shouldn’t go forward, the prosecutor can drop the charges by entering a nolle prosequi (or nol pros).

I repeat, no ethical prosecutor wants to convict an innocent person. And unethical prosecutors are rarer than the conventional wisdom would have you believe.

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