Wrongful convictions are not unheard of in the United States justice system. In fact, a number of people who are behind bars have been found innocent after further testing showed that they were innocent of committing a crime. Even more may be wrongfully incarcerated, serving life sentences or even sitting on death row. The Innocence Project, the Innocence Network and the International Association of Chief of Police joined together to educate judges, law enforcement officers and other professionals about human phenomenon that can lead to wrongful convictions.
Certain psychological factors, including confirmation bias, memory malleability, impact bias, tunnel vision, false confessions, lie dectection and eyewitness misidentification, contribute to erroneous convictions. For example, confirmation bias describes how people seek out information that helps to confirm what they already believe to be true. They also avoid or overlook information that may show that their belief is not true. This can cause law enforcement officers who are investigating a suspect, find information to support their lead, even if that lead is innocent. In order to process all of the information involved in a case, the human brain develops filters in an attempt to organize the facts. The problem lies in the fact that everyone’s filters for viewing information are different. These filters may lead people to overlook crucial evidence that could prove that the subject they are investigating is not guilty at all.
Humans make mistakes, and the way they process information, remember facts and view the world are all subjective. All of these things can lead to erroneous convictions.