The interest in forestalling wrongful convictions is presently worldwide and
not bound to any district or kind of criminal equity framework. Wrongful
convictions are terrible, they can happen at anyplace, and they are a genuine
basic freedoms issue.
- Over the last several decades, wrongful convictions of persons condemned
to death have been documented in every region of the world. In some cases,
innocent men and women have spent decades on death row before being
exonerated and released. In others, they have been executed before evidence
of their innocence has come to light. The prevalence of wrongful convictions
has exposed the fallibility of every criminal justice model and has led some
states to abolish the death penalty altogether. To date, there have been few
in-depth comparative studies of the causes of wrongful capital convictions.
- Most empirical research on the topic has focused on the United States,
where death row exonerations have been highly publicized.
- This report, by contrast, explores the phenomenon of wrongful
convictions in six different jurisdictions representing a range of
geographical regions, legal traditions, and political contexts. It addresses
the main endeavour to recognize
the foundational factors in every country that improve the probability that
innocent people will be condemned to death. Each of our country chapters
includes research on the failings of the criminal justice system as well as an
individual case study.
The case studies illustrate how different risk factors play out in capital
prosecutions (though the risk factors are invariably more extensive than any one
case can represent). The case studies also highlight the problematic gap between
constitutional and legislative protections for those facing the death penalty,
and states’ failure to implement those safeguards in practice. Our research
results confirm what experts and practitioners have long warned: no criminal
justice system is free of error, regardless of the system, region, or political
regime, and any state that applies the death penalty will inevitably sentence
innocent people to an irreversible punishment.
We selected some of our country
targets, such as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria, with the knowledge that,
thanks to our partners’ work, averred innocence cases had already come to public
attention. For Cameroon, Malawi, and Jordan, however, this study represents the
first attempt to locate and discuss cases of innocence on death row. Though the
latter country experts faced greater logistical (and sometimes political)
hurdles in pioneering this research, they had no difficulty in identifying cases
that presented all the warning signs of wrongful capital convictions.
For the purposes of this report, we define wrongful conviction as a case in
which the available evidence indicates that the defendant was factually innocent
of the capital offense for which he or she was convicted. We intentionally
employ a narrow definition of the term so as to avoid any debate over
terminology; we therefore exclude cases in which the defendant committed the
crime but was legally insane. It is worth noting, however, that the legal
definition of wrongful conviction
could be much broader, encompassing unfair
trials and miscarriages of justice even where there is some evidence that the
defendant committed a crime.
This research relied heavily upon partnerships with in-country experts,
primarily practicing capital defence lawyers and human rights organizations
engaged in advocacy and reform efforts around death penalty issues. The
researchers conducted interviews of lawyers and activists, analysed case files
gathered on site (including police reports, trial transcripts, witness
statements, client interviews, and judicial decisions), and conducted follow-up
factual investigations. The researchers also engaged in desk research to expand
their understanding of risk factors in individual countries, analysing reports,
articles, and conclusions issued by international and regional human rights
bodies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the media.
For what reason Should a State Compensate the Wrongly Convicted?
Despite their proven innocence, the difficulty of re-entering society is
profound for the wrongfully convicted; the failure to compensate them adds
insult to injury. Society has an obligation to promptly provide compassionate
assistance to the wrongfully convicted in the following ways:
- Monetary Compensation, Based Upon a Set Minimum Amount For Each Year
- Provision of Immediate Services, Including:
- Financial help for fundamental necessities, including means reserves,
- Help securing affordable housing;
- Provision of clinical/dental consideration, and mental and additionally
- Assistance with schooling education and the advancement of labour force
- Legal administrations to acquire public advantages, erase criminal
records, and recover authority of kids.
Official Acknowledgement of a Wrongful Conviction
Conceding that no system is perfect, the government’s public recognition of the
harm inflicted upon a wrongfully convicted person helps to foster his healing
process, while assuring the public that the government – regardless of fault –
is willing to take ownership or responsibility for wrongs or blunders
Do all states have compensation statutes?
The federal government, the District of Columbia, and 35 states have
compensation statutes of some form. The following 15 states do not: Alaska,
Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Dakota,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
What Are Common Shortcomings in Existing Legislation?
What Can Be Done to Ensure Fair Compensation In Every State?
- Insufficient financial pay and social administrations.
- Refusing to enact uniform, statutory access to wrongful conviction
compensation. Some states opt to compensate the wrongfully convicted only
via private compensation bills. This approach: politicizes compensation
based on the individuals and policymakers involved; requires exonerees to mount
costly and demanding political campaigns; and threatens to deny appropriate – or
any – compensation to those who truly deserve it.
- Prohibiting compensation to those deemed to have contributed to their
wrongful convictions. This provision can deny justice to those who were
coerced, explicitly or implicitly, into confessing or pleading guilty to
crimes it was proven they did not commit.
- Denying the additional remedy deserved by those who can prove their
wrongful convictions resulted from patent and intentional civil rights
violations, as opposed to simple error.
- Preventing the compensation of individuals with unrelated, felony
By guaranteeing compensation to the wrongfully convicted, a state can make a
significant stride towards guaranteeing the uprightness of its criminal equity
Case in Point (example): Compensation in Florida
- States that do not have compensation statutes must pass them and states
that have pay rules should rethink them to guarantee they make pay similarly
feasible and sufficient for the wrongfully convicted.
- Statutes should include either a fixed sum or a range of recovery for
each year spent in prison. President George W. Bush endorsed Congress’s
recommended amount of up to $50,000 per year, with up to an additional
$50,000 for each year spent on death row. Adjusted for inflation, this
amount is $63,000.
- In Texas, an even more robust compensation framework is in place,
compensating the wrongfully convicted $80,000 per year and an annuity set at
the same amount.
- Statutes should include the immediate provision of subsistence funds and
access to services critical to a successful return to society, including
housing, food, psychological counselling, medical and dental care, job skills
training, education, and other relevant assistance needed to foster the
successful rebuilding of the lives of the wrongfully convicted.
- Statutes should not contain the provisions noted in the Common
Shortcomings in Existing Legislation section above.
In 2004, Floridian Wilton Dedge was exonerated after having been forced to spend
22 years in prison for a rape and burglary that he did not commit. Upon his
release from wrongful imprisonment, however, Mr. Dedge was entitled to
absolutely nothing from the state. Mr. Dedge’s lawsuit against the state was
dismissed by the trial court. His only alternative to the courts was to seek a
private compensation bill from the legislature.
Despite the public outcry over the injustice he had suffered, the legislature
initially refused to pass the private bill necessary to compensate him.
(Florida did eventually pass a private bill for Mr. Dedge and in 2008, passed a
universal statute, obviating the need for the extraordinary advocacy that was
needed for Mr. Dedge.) Having to convince the legislature of the need for
compensation makes it a political issue, and successfully suing in court
presents a new set of legal and financial obstacles to the wrongfully convicted
– when compensation should be a simple issue of justice.
There is simply no question that when an innocent person has had his life
stripped from him only to endure the horror of prison, justice demands that the
individual be compensated for the harm suffered. States should adequately and
promptly provide justice and restoration to the wrongly convicted through a
standard, navigable, and just process.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
signatories are needed to find ways to guarantee the privilege to pay for
wrongful conviction and confinement. While India had communicated reservations
while endorsing the ICCPR that the Indian overall set of laws doesn't perceive
the privilege to pay for casualties of unlawful capture and confinement, the
statute made by the Supreme Court of India has reserved this spot repetitive.
In a number of judgments, the Supreme Court has recognised granting of
compensation as a necessary public law remedy for violations of fundamental
rights, including wrongful incarceration and arrests. For instance, the Supreme
Court, last year, provided a compensation of 50 lakhs to former ISRO scientist
Nambi Narayanan, 24 years after he was illegally detained on the charge of
leaking official secrets to a spy racket.
The fact that the payment of compensation was ordered 24 years after the
wrongful arrest is a serious reminder of the need to correct wrongs caused by
unlawful arrests in a timely manner and to preserve liberty. This calls for
statutory recognition of the right to compensation in cases of wrongful arrests
and imprisonment, which the victims of such accusations can avail without
waiting for another several years of litigation before the courts.
Unlawful arrests and detention not only cause loss of years, but can also create
social stigma and ostracization even after being released. This is evident from
powerful narrative accounts by individuals who have been victims of false
For instance, in her book Prisoner No. 100: An Account of My
Nights and Days in an Indian Prison, political activist Anjum Zamarud
Habib (from Kashmir) recounts her experiences of having spent five years in jail
before being released by the Delhi High Court. Anjum writes in her book, I am a
free person today but the wounds and scars that jail has inflicted on me are not
only difficult, but impossible to heal.
Framed As a Terrorist:
Struggle to Prove My Innocence is another harrowing narrative of a young Indian
Muslim man, Mohammad Aamir Khan, who was kidnapped by the police, falsely
accused of being a terrorist, framed, and kept in jail for almost 14 years.
Providing compensation to such victims of wrongful arrests, detention and
prosecution is the least that the state could do as reparations for the wrong
Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany,
etc. have enacted a statutory right to compensation, but it is limited to
wrongful conviction by virtue of a final order, after all avenues of appeal have
been exhausted and a new fact surfaces, which then proves conclusively that the
convicted person was factually innocent.
In its 277th report titled Wrongful
Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice): Legal Remedies (August 2018), the Law
Commission of India has rightly pointed that the practices of Western countries
would be inadequate to address the systemic shortcomings of the criminal justice
system in India, where individuals have spent several years in imprisonment even
prior to a conviction.
The Law Commission has recommended the norm of 'improper arraignment' be applied
in India. This standard will be relevant to situations where the police or
arraignment perniciously, erroneously or carelessly researched or indicted an
individual who was seen not as liable of the wrongdoing. While expressing that
India should satisfy its worldwide responsibilities, the Commission suggested
certain particular alterations in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 to
join the arrangements for remuneration. The Commission even introduced a draft
revision bill for the CrPC. In any case, Parliament has not paid any regard to
the perceptions and proposals of the Law Commission to date.
Moreover, as a result of lack of financial resources and knowledge about Supreme
Court judgments, many individuals may not even think of directly approaching the
Supreme Court to seek compensation. A statutory right to compensation will
provide a legal remedy to the citizens and will subsequently make the state
officials, in particular, the police, institutionally liable.
Article 14 (6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes
it mandatory for countries to have a statutory framework for providing
compensation and rehabilitation to those who have been wrongfully prosecuted by
the State. This provision, adopted by many countries across the world – but not
yet by India that is otherwise a party to the treaty – stems from a simple,
natural principle: If the State, in its performance of sovereign functions, has
wrongfully taken away the life or liberty of an individual, it needs to remedy
The general concept of cure, nonetheless, represents an unpredictable,
jurisprudential issue when defied with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution –
the privilege to life and freedom. For, the State, whose very presence is to
ensure residents the opportunity of life and freedom, can return neither on the
off chance that they have been unjustly removed. For sure the focal contention
made by those went against to the legitimate removing of the privilege to life
(capital punishment) is that the state ought not remove what it can never give.
Nonetheless, while the legal removing of life isn't that regular in India, the
unfair disavowal of the privilege to freedom is widespread.
Recommendations and shortcomings
Drawing upon the testimonies of innocents, the Law Commission’s report points
out the case of Md Nisaruddin Ahmed as one of the gravest instances of
miscarriage of justice in the country. Ahmed was an accused in the 1993 serial
blasts in trains case and was declared innocent by the Supreme Court and
released in 2016 after 23 years in custody. The reports points out:
Compensation under this framework will include both pecuniary and non-pecuniary
assistance...while pecuniary assistance will be in terms of monetary award as
may be determined by the special court; non-pecuniary assistance will be awarded
in the form of services such as counselling, mental health services,
vocational/employment skills development, and such other similar services. Non
pecuniary assistance shall also include a specific provision for removing
disqualification attached to a prosecution or conviction...
It was in 1983 when the Supreme Court in Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar
, for the
first time, faced a dilemma to whether or not award compensation to the
wrongfully convicted victim whose fundamental rights were violated.
The petitioner was unlawfully detained in prison for ‘14 years’ and filed a
Habeas Corpus petition before the Supreme Court underArt.32 of the Constitution
demanding for compensation along with other reliefs. The Court believed that
Article 21, would be denuded if the Court ordered for mere acquittal of the
petitioner without any grant of compensation.
The Supreme Court awarded Rs. 30,000 as compensation to the petitioner and held
that the scope of Art.32 is sufficiently broad to include the ‘power to grant
compensation’ for infringements of fundamental rights only in cases where the
infringement of rights is gross.
The grant of reimbursement by the Supreme Court, according to Art.32 and the
High Court under Art.226 of the Constitution, is collective reparation dependent
on the strict liability of breaches of constitutional rights.
The Court, while hearing a writ petition in the case of Ram Lakhan Singh v State
of UP, ordered a compensation amount of Rs.10 lakhs to the petitioner who fought
a prolonged legal battle for ten years and also spent 11 days in jail. In
another case, a nine-year-old child died due to police’s atrocities whose kin
was awarded a compensation amount of Rs. 75000
India is a government assistance state, and its general set of laws has
developed dramatically throughout the most recent couple of years. The framework
essentially affects all aspects of the resident's life, from origination to
death. In such a circumstance, state outrages are an infringement of common
liberties with regards to illicit indictments.
Guaranteeing the security of the individual and the propagation of the standards
of Natural Justice, the rule of law are the 'sine qua non' for an enlightened
society. In any case, it takes solid self control with respect to the decision
gathering to guarantee that rule of peace and law are kept up and that
residents' privileges are ensured, in this way making it an edified society.
Wrongfully accused victims are deprived of their basic fundamental rights. The
appalling state of the victims, following their conviction, manifests the
state’s unwise approach to these victims. After their release from prison, the
victims depend on the state’s mercy.
Casualties are dependent upon a wide range of injury, and no state help is
given. A few grant reports consistently show how casualties and their families
are influenced by these injuries. Since it relies entirely upon the desire of
the court to give remuneration or not, it has shown a non-uniform methodology
which sabotages the public's trust in the legal executive.
A cautious audit of cases and the Court's viewpoint towards these victims
doesn't wipe out the presence of an inquiry with respect to how the State and
the Courts have neglected to ensure their crucial rights. The non-award of
remuneration for the Bomb impact charged, who later ended up being guiltless
following quite a while of preliminary, compels us to consider the rapid and
reasonable conveyance of equity in our country.
The compensation scheme varies from case to case, making it inconsistent,
capricious and arbitrary. Inexplicably, the mere granting of the compensation
constitutes a small step towards restoring the status quo of the victims.