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“I’ve had a mom of a client tell me that even though her son was still in prison, just having us join the fight meant that she could enjoy Christmas for the first time since they took her son away. (We eventually won that case and freed her son many years later.) But many of these cases we don’t win, so we try to find value in the tough losses.”
–Mark Godsey, author of Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions, in Salon.com
Who are the people that fight on behalf of those wrongfully convicted? For International Wrongful Conviction Day, we share the experiences of Mark Godsey, former New York City prosecutor and co-founder of The Ohio Innocence Project at University of Cincinnati College of Law. Since 2003, Godsey and the OIP have helped to exonerate 25 people who were wrongfully convicted. That’s a combined 450 years served by innocent people.
The Wrongfully Convicted
In a recent Salon.com interview, Godsey shares heartbreaking and personal stories —from the success story of Ricky Jackson, released after 40 years, to the continuing story of Kevin Thornton, where DNA evidence can prove his innocence but whose case is tied up in the court of appeals since, as Godsey notes, “prosecutors and courts don’t want to admit mistakes of this magnitude. …. There’s a whole psychology or pathology behind it.”
In his interview Godsey says, “just the act of standing up for someone like Kevin—standing by his side and saying, ‘We care about you enough to fight for you’—has value to him, and value to humanity, even if we lose. We have had clients like Kevin tell us that they had lost all hope, and just the fact that someone finally listened and joined in their fight helped re-instill their faith in humanity.”
The Psychology Behind #WrongfulConvictions
In a recent TedX Talk, Godsey admits that working on the Innoncence Project is “opening my eyes to problems in the system, specifically that wrongful convictions are … caused by simple human failings, psychological limitations that cause investigations to go astray.”
The innate psychological flaws experienced by, lawyers, judges, police, and juries can cause investigations to go awry. Godsey specifically discusses how confirmation bias, malleable memories, and lie detection deficits have a hand in the conviction of innocent people.