- Psychological research can inform courtroom decision making and help decrease the frequency of flawed verdicts.
- As of this writing, the Innocence Project has freed 301 individuals on the basis of DNA evidence. In about 75 percent of these cases, a principal cause of the wrongful conviction was faulty eyewitness testimony.
- To prevent false confessions, a video of the full interrogation should be available to substantiate any self-incriminatory statements.
- Placing blacks on the jury can defuse the biases of white jurors.
On January 18, 2011, Kevin Benefield was convicted of the rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey in Wallingford, Conn. Benefield was deemed guilty on the basis of DNA evidence, which exonerated Kenneth Ireland, the man initially convicted of the crimes. Ireland's newfound freedom was bittersweet. It arrived only after he had spent more than 20 years in prison, having been arrested at age 18 and convicted wrongfully in 1989.
Ireland is hardly alone. Stories of people cleared of crimes following erroneous convictions have become ubiquitous fixtures of the news cycle. Many of these errors have been exposed with the aid of welcome scientific advances, especially DNA analysis. But wouldn't it be better if a systematic approach were available to help prevent wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice in the first place?
This article was originally published with the title Your Brain on Trial.