When it comes to the American criminal justice system, rules and procedure matter a great deal. All citizens are innocent until proven guilty, and evidence obtained improperly or illegally by law enforcement cannot be used against defendants in court.
The Massachusetts state crime lab came under scrutiny recently after it was discovered that one of its scientists may have tainted evidence used in thousands of criminal cases. The scandal has shaken public confidence in criminal justice systems across the country.
It is not often that a judge presiding over a criminal case will accept "I just didn't know," or "I didn't understand" as a valid reason to uphold an acquittal or to reduce a generally accepted sentencing term. This may be especially true in cases of alleged sex crimes, given that many convictions carry mandatory sentencing terms and one cannot generally argue ignorance with respect to the elements of a sex crime.
Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a man convicted of triple homicide who has been fighting for more than a decade just to have the evidence in his case retested. While this incident did not occur in Wisconsin, it speaks to the importance of Wisconsin's efforts to update and expand its criminal DNA database.
Some of our recent posts have been focused on the importance of hard evidence when attempting to convict someone on criminal charges. Over the last few years, improvements in Wisconsin's criminal DNA database and the heroic efforts of groups like the Innocence Project have contributed to the exoneration of many individuals who were wrongly convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder.
We have previously written about the importance of hard and fast scientific evidence in the prosecution or defense of serious crimes. In recent years, Wisconsin has been working hard to update its criminal DNA database, and this is actually a good thing for the majority of individuals on either side of the law.
We often write about the ways in which the legal system constrains the rights of criminal defendants. However, those who are forced to mount a criminal defense received more protections rather than fewer in a recent Supreme Court ruling.
Some members of the population are often treated as though their entire existence is defined by one characteristic. As a result, even when others know little to nothing of how they came to be convicted (perhaps wrongfully) of a crime or came to be down on their luck, they judge them unfairly.
If you are a Wisconsin resident with a car registered here, you will be issued a license plate for the front and back of your vehicle and the law requires that you display both of them. Not every state has this same requirement.
Earlier this week, we wrote that a Wisconsin man was recently granted a new trial after a 1994 conviction on two counts of armed robbery. There were inconsistencies in his conviction, including grainy footage from store surveillance cameras as well as eyewitness testimony that failed to identify him in a lineup.