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Contribution to Book
Wrongful Convictions, Policing, and the 'Wars on Crime and Drugs'
Examining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back and Moving Forward (2014)
  • Hannah Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley
  • Stephen Rushin
  • Jonathan Simon, University of California, Berkeley

Wrongful conviction ought to be an aberration for any system of criminal punishment tied to legal adjudication; certainly in a system such as we have in the United States, premised on the constitutional bedrock of requiring a jury to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (Sandstrom v. Montana). We suggest, however, that during the so-called wars on crime and drugs, wrongful convictions are no longer mere aberrations, any more than is holding to the end of hostilities captured members of an enemy army. Specifically, we hypothesize that these two "fronts" in two parallel national "wars" have transformed police practices in such a way that both homicide and drug crimes have become likely centers of concentration of some form of wrongful conviction.

In this chapter, we begin by discussing the war on crime and the war on drugs. We then discuss the ways in which these wars have transformed American policing and have served to promote wrongful conviction. We conclude the chapter by suggesting that we need political signals and institutional reforms, not just better methods and ad hoc individual correction. Only by clearly ending these wars — and their "state of emergency" like signal to both frontline enforcers and citizens — can we restore the state of affairs in which wrongful conviction returns to being an aberration in our criminal justice system and a problem subject to effective technical and tactical solutions. Given that personal exoneration is neither practical nor likely for most individuals, we suggest broader policies are required.

  • wrongful convictions,
  • police,
  • criminal law,
  • criminal procedure,
  • policing
Publication Date
Citation Information
Hannah Laqueur, Stephen Rushin and Jonathan Simon. "Wrongful Convictions, Policing, and the 'Wars on Crime and Drugs'" Examining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back and Moving Forward (2014)
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