Critical Criminology

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 21–37 | Cite as

Wrongfully Convicting the Innocent: A State Crime?

  • Greg Stratton


Although there is evidence of its occurrence in most criminal justice systems, wrongful conviction remains underdeveloped from a criminological perspective. The result of a confluence of factors and actors, wrongful conviction stands as evidence that criminal justice systems are not immune to error. Amongst the different circumstances in individual cases, the state (or those acting on its behalf) is one constant actor implicated in wrongful conviction of the innocent. Recognizing this consistency, wrongful conviction has the potential to be examined through existing understandings of state crime and enter more robust discussions within critical and orthodox criminology. By expanding upon existing arguments relevant to state crime, this article suggests a typology of wrongful conviction by placing it on a continuum of state crime from acts of omission to commission. In doing so, this article further develops a theoretical argument demonstrating the relevance of wrongful conviction within the state crime ‘spectrum’, adding to the understanding of the problem of wrongful conviction.


Justice System Criminal Justice System Crime Scene State Crime Tunnel Vision 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aulette, J. R., & Michalowski, R. (1993). Fire in hamlet: A case study of state-corporate crime. In K. Tunnell (Ed.), Political crime in contemporary america: A critical approach (pp. 171–206). New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  2. Bandes, S. (2005). Loyalty to one’s convictions: The prosecutor and tunnel vision. Howard Law Journal, 49(2), 475–494.Google Scholar
  3. Barak, G. (1991). Resisting state criminality and the struggle for justice. In G. Barak (Ed.), Crimes by the capitalist state: An introduction to state criminality (pp. 273–282). Albany: State of New York University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baude, W. (2010). Last chance on death row. The Wilson Quarterly, 34(4), 18–21.Google Scholar
  5. Borchard, E. (1932). Convicting the innocent: Sixty-five actual errors of criminal justice. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Chambliss, W. J. (1989). State organized crime—The American Society of Criminology, 1988 Presidential address. Criminology, 27(2), 183–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chambliss, W. J. (1995). Commentary. Society For the Study of Social Problems Newsletter.Google Scholar
  8. Cole, S. A. (2003). Fingerprinting: The first junk science. Oklahoma City Univeristy Law Review, 28(1), 73–92.Google Scholar
  9. Collins, J. M., & Jarvis, J. (2009). The wrongful conviction of forensic science. Forensic Science Policy and Management, 1(1), 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Denov, M. S., & Campbell, K. M. (2005). Criminal injustice: Understanding the causes, effects, and responses to wrongful conviction in Canada. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(3), 224–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doyle, J. M. (2013). An etiology of wrongful convictions. In M. Zalman & J. Carrano (Eds.), Wrongful conviction and criminal justice reform: Making justice (pp. 56–72). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Dwyer, J., Scheck, B., & Neufeld, P. (2003). Actual innocence: When justice goes wrong and how to make it right. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
  13. Edwards, K. (2005). Ten things about DNA contamination that lawyers should know. Criminal Law Journal, 29(2), 71–93.Google Scholar
  14. Fields, K. L. (2013). Toward a Bayesian analysis of recanted eyewitness identification testimony. New York University Law Review, 88(4), 1769–1801.Google Scholar
  15. Findley, K. A. (2010). Defining innocence. Albany Law Review, 74(3), 1157–1208.Google Scholar
  16. Findley, K. A., & Scott, M. S. (2006). The multiple dimensions of tunnel vision in criminal cases. Wisconsin Law Review, 2006(2), 291–398.Google Scholar
  17. Forst, B. (2004). Errors of justice: Nature, sources and remedies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Friedrichs, D. (2004). Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  19. Garrett, B. L., & Neufeld, P. J. (2009). Invalid forensic science testimony and wrongful conviction. Virginia Law Review, 95(1), 1–97.Google Scholar
  20. Garrett, B. L. (2007). Aggregation in criminal law. California Law Review, 95(2), 383.Google Scholar
  21. Grann, D. (2009). Trial by fire: Did texas execute an innocent man. The New Yorker, September 29, 2009.
  22. Greer, S. (1994). Miscarriages of criminal justice reconsidered. The Modern Law Review, 57(1), 58–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grometstein, R., & Balboni, J. M. (2012). Backing out of a constitutional ditch: Constitutional remedies for gross prosecutorial misconduct post thompson. Albany Law Review, 75(3), 1243–1281.Google Scholar
  24. Gross, S.R., & Shaffer M. (2012) Exonerations in the United States, 1989–2012. University of Michigan Public Law Working Paper.Google Scholar
  25. Gross, S. R., Jacoby, K., Matheson, D. J., et al. (2005). Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 95(2), 523–560.Google Scholar
  26. Hagan, K. (2009). DNA fiasco: Rape conviction quashed. Melbourne: The Age.Google Scholar
  27. Henry, S. (1991). The informal economy: A crime of omission by the state. In G. Barak (Ed.), Crimes by the capitalist state: An introduction to state criminality (pp. 253–272). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  28. Huff, C. R. (2004). Wrongful convictions: The american experience. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 46(2), 107–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huff, C. R., Rattner, A., Sagarin, E., & MacNamara, D. E. J. (1986). Guilty until proved innocent: Wrongful conviction and public policy. Crime & Delinquency, 32(4), 518–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Innocence Project. (2014). Understaning the casues: Unreliable or improper forensic science.
  31. Kauzlarich, D., Mullins, C., & Matthews, R. (2003). A complicity continuum of state crime. Contemporary Justice Review, 6(3), 241–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koppl, R., & Sacks, M. (2013). The criminal justice system creates incentives for false convictions. Criminal Justice Ethics, 32(2), 126–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kramer, R. C., & Michalowski, R. (1990). Toward an integrated theory of state-corporate crime. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  34. Kramer, R. C., & Michalowski, R. J. (2005). War, aggression and state crime: A criminological analysis of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. British Journal of Criminology, 45(4), 446–469.Google Scholar
  35. Kramer, R. C., & Kauzlarich, D. (2011). Nuclear weapons, international law, and the normalization of state crime. In D. Rothe & C. W. Mullins (Eds.), State crime: Current perspectives (pp. 94–121). New Brunswick, New Jersey, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Leo, R. A. (2005). Rethinking the study of miscarriages of justice: Developing a criminology of wrongful conviction. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(3), 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lillquist, E. (2007). Improving accuracy in criminals cases. University of Richmond Law Review, 41(4), 897–934.Google Scholar
  38. Luna, E. (2005). System failure. American Criminal Law Review, 42(4), 1201–1218.Google Scholar
  39. Medwed, D. S. (2006). Anatomy of a wrongful conviction: Theoretical implications and practical solutions. Villanova Law Review, 51(2), 337–377.Google Scholar
  40. Metze, P. S. (2012). Troy Davis, Lawrence Brewer, and Timothy McVeigh Should Still Be Alive: Certainty, innocence, and the high cost of death and immorality. Charleston Law Review, 6(2), 333–370.Google Scholar
  41. Michalowski, R., & Kramer, R. C. (2006). The critique of power. In R. Michalowski & R. C. Kramer (Eds.), State-corporate crime: Wrongdoing at the intersection of business and government (pp. 1–17). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Morris, E. (1988). The thin blue line. United States: Miramax Films.Google Scholar
  43. Naughton, M. (2005). Redefining miscarriages of justice: A revived human-rights approach to unearth subjugated discourses of wrongful criminal conviction. British Journal of Criminology, 45(2), 165–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Norris, R. J. (2012). Assessing compensation statutes for the wrongly convicted. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 23(3), 352–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Norris, R. J., & Bonventre C. L. (2013). Advancing wrongful conviction scholarship: Toward new conceptual frameworks. Justice Quarterly, 1-21. doi: 10.1080/07418825.2013.827232.
  46. Pilkington, E. (2011). Troy Davis execution: Repeated trips to death chamber ‘amount to torture’. The Guardian, September 21, 2011.
  47. Radelet, M. L., Lofquist, W. S., & Bedau, H. A. (1996). Prisoners released from death rows since 1970 because of doubts about their guilt. Thomas M. Cooley Law Review, 13(3), 907–966.Google Scholar
  48. Ricciardelli, R., & Clow, K. A. (2011). The impact of an exonoree’s guest lecture on students’ attitudes toward wrongly convicted persons. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 23(2), 127–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rothe, D., Ross, J., Mullins, C., et al. (2009). That was then, this is now, what about tomorrow? Future directions in state crime studies. Critical Criminology, 17(1), 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schoenfeld, H. (2005). Violated trust: Conceptualizing prosecutorial misconduct. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(3), 250–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Severson, K. (2011). Davis is executed in Georgia. New York Times, September 21, 2011.
  52. Siegel, A. M. (2005). Moving down the wedge of injustice: A proposal for a third generation of wrongful convictions scholarship and advocacy. American Criminal Law Review, 42(4), 1219–1238.Google Scholar
  53. Stratton, G. (2012). Mystery, ethnicity, and the ideal victim: Phillip Walsham’s death. Communication, Culture & Critique, 5(2), 252–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tan, G. (2011). Structuration theory and wrongful imprisonment: From ‘victimhood’ to ‘survivorship’? Critical Criminology, 19(3), 175–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thompson-Cannino, J., Cotton, R., & Torneo, E. (2010). Picking cotton: Our memoir of injustice and redemption. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  56. Totenberg, N. (2009). Can prosecutors be sued by people they framed? NPR, November 04, 2009.
  57. Turvey, B. E. (2013). Forensic fraud: Evaluating law enforcement and forensic science cultures in the context of examiner misconduct. Oxford: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  58. Vartkessian, E. S., & Tyler, J. P. (2011). Legal and social exoneration: The consequences of Michael Toney’s wrongful conviction. Albany Law Review, 75(3), 1467–1498.Google Scholar
  59. Vincent, F. (2010). Report: Inquiry into the circumstances that led to the conviction of Mr Farah Abdulkadir Jama. Melbourne: Victorian Government.Google Scholar
  60. Walker, C. (1993). Introduction. In C. Walker & K. Starmer (Eds.), Justice in error (pp. 1–16). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Westervelt, S., & Cook, K. (2010). Framing innocents: The wrongly convicted as victims of state harm. Crime, Law and Social Change, 53(3), 259–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Westervelt, S., & Cook, K. (2012). Life after death row: Exonerees’ search for community and identity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations