The National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society, University of Michiga

What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?

What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?

What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?

What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?

What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?
What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?
  • 2019-11-18 23:10:10 3 months ago
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The National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society, University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law tracks exoneration cases in the United States. So far, the initiative has documented 2,505 cases of wrongful conviction and subsequent exoneration with a combined more than 22,094 years lost. This data is collected from publicly available data as well as partner organizations like the Innocence Project.

What is staggering about this data is the systemic nature of the wrongful convictions. All cases fall under a narrow band of jurisprudence shortcomings that, while well understood and documented, have proven difficult to root out. The result is a conveyor belt of wrongful convictions such as that of Anand Jon Alexander in California and others that are not likely to stop any time soon. In this article, we look at these systemic issues and how they taint the justice system, letting down thousands who daily throw themselves to the mercy of the court.

Official Misconduct

Official misconduct is the biggest culprit when it comes to wrongful convictions. While some actions such as perjury and withholding evidence are outright illegal, a lot of what rouge prosecutors (and investigators) do falls in a moral and a legal gray area. Take snitches, for example. Typically, a snitch is an individual already in jail who offers to act as an informant. The problem with this arrangement is that snitches are often compensated for their testimonies, offering a huge incentive to provide information regardless of accuracy.
Another area of official misconduct is when a prosecutor makes up their mind to get a conviction at any cost. In such a case, prosecutors contravened judicial conventions that prevent them from using such tools to influence a case. However, by using these morally reprehensible tactics, prosecutors in the case manager to put innocent individuals in jail for extended periods.

Bad Lawyering

Bad lawyering is rampant in the corridors of justice, especially in cases where state prosecutors or defense are called upon to represent a case. Owing to a cocktail of reasons including huge workloads, professional ambition, and in many cases, laziness, cases do not get the amount of attention they require. The Innocence Project identifies a lack of competent legal representation as a significant factor in wrongful convictions. Said differently, the justice system is stacked against the poor who cannot afford private representation.

To cite an example, in the Anand Jon Alexander case, lawyers representing the defendant had every opportunity to protest the use of race, religion, and national origin by the prosecution. However, through laxity and a sense of apathy, such protests were not forthcoming. As such, the case lost its objectivity as it ended up trying the defendant’s inclinations as opposed to trying the facts of the case.

Expert Testimonies

In an indicting article, the New York Times boldly mentioned that the leading cause of wrongful convictions is experts overstating forensic evidence. The article identifies several cases of wrongful convictions based on expert testimonies that had no scientific backing. The problem lies in the judicial system’s way of handling expert testimonies. While the threshold to be admitted as an expert is high, experts can say pretty much anything and dress it up as facts once they take the stand.

For instance, experts have long used hair comparison as a way of proving guilt. With this expert testimony, hundreds have been convicted for crimes they may not have committed. Only recently has it been established that experts really cannot tell one hair from another with absolute certainty. However, while the scientific community is clear on this, courts have not come out clearly on whether such “approximation” evidence can or cannot be admitted as evidence.

Flawed Science

Finally, flawed science is behind some of the most egregious wrongful convictions documented. While expert witnesses rely on an imperfect science, forensic labs and investigators also rely on the same information. The result is a systematic error that wrongfully convicts hundreds each year. For instance, before DNA sequencing became reliable, many cases were tried purely on witness accounts and circumstantial evidence.

Today, while DNA has come a long way, it is still not the silver bullet prosecutors paint it to be.

In a famous case involving the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York, the office stated it had developed a DNA amplification software that could amplify minuscule (unidentifiable) shreds of DNA. While the expert testimony based on this technology served to convict the defendant, two years later, the evidence was thrown out by a higher court when it emerged that the witness had oversold the new technology.

Conclusion

For the cases mentioned above, including the wrongful conviction of Anand Jon Alexander, the hurdles outlined may be the only barriers standing in the way of justice. Although systemic and extremely pervasive, there is still hope that through judicial reforms, these hurdles can be lowered, and the number of wrongful convictions significantly reduced.

The post What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States? appeared first on Prague Post.

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What Is Behind the Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in the United States?

Brian Ladin Shares the Trends in Ship Financing to Look out for in 2020

As the shipping industry continues to expand, which is now reaching some historical highs, the number of investors who make hefty gains continues to grow. Interestingly enough, however, the same is not true for many long-time financial providers who used to dominate this sector. While this will be discussed in more detail shortly, Brian Ladin, who is a long time shipping investor, summarizes it as the exit of European giants.

More precisely, the exit of some of the largest European banks that used to finance the shipping industry has been quite rapid and unprecedented over the past decade. With it, there are now many trends that are shaping the shipping sector as one that is highly unpredictable. To understand all of the current and forthcoming developments, however, let us look into the background of the abrupt change.

More European Banks Exit the Industry

Over the past ten years, some of the largest banks that the shipping industry has relied on for decades have decided to exit the field. Since the vast majority of them were based in Europe, the entire exit is being viewed as a shift from one continent to another. While there are many reasons behind this, one of the most important ones is the fact that most European providers used to offer extremely low-priced loans to shipping organizations. For instance, finding 70% or more of the project’s financing at a 2% margin was quite reasonable in the late 2000s. Nowadays, however, it is tough to get a margin that is below at least twice that number.

Besides, the onset of a significant financial downturn in 2008 did not help. It was the event that one could say “set the wheels in motion,” which eventually snowballed into a lot of unprofitable years for the European banks who dealt with ship financing. Finally, things like added regulations, the likes of which include Basel regulations, made these projects even harder to navigate successfully. Thus, to showcase just how big the drop has been, consider the following figures.

In 2007, right before the crisis came about, these institutions had north of $120 billion invested in the ship finance sector. Analyses from 2016, on the other hand, show that the overall figure has gone down to just $50 billion. In translation, it took less than ten years for over half of the original finance volume to disappear.

Getting Back to the Equilibrium

According to Brian Ladin, the changes that come with the exit of seasoned providers of ship finance have been just as staggering. For instance, another trend that must be taken into account is that financing is a lot harder to come by. As mentioned earlier, the rates that companies can now obtain new goods and hardware are nowhere near as favorable. It leads to tighter budgets and longer planning stages that now have to include an extended period dedicated to finding investors from multiple continents.

The Focus Shifts

Due to the European players exiting the sphere, many new financial institutions from other geographical locations have entered. While some originate from the U.S., the vast majority of them are coming from Asia. As per many experts who have been in the field for a prolonged time, it would not be surprising to see this lead to a relocation of some ship manufacturers and operators to regions that are closer to their financing allies. For instance, while docking and having a production force in Europe was understandable, it now constitutes a geographical obstacle considering that most financing offers will come from Asia.

U.S. Equity Funds

Besides Asia, Brian Ladin stresses the importance of the equity funds that are coming from the western nations, especially the U.S. During the timeframe mentioned above between 2007 and 2016, it is estimated that more than $16 billion of U.S. investors’ money has been put into the ship finance industry. The leading provider who has been creating such joint ventures is a California-based asset management firm called Oaktree Capital Management. Another dominant player is Apollo Global Management that currently has over $500 million invested in a wide range of container vessels.

Still, however, the odds of these organizations taking the majority market share from their Asian counterparts is quite low. After all, these types of enormous investments in the ship finance industry are still relatively young in the U.S. as the European banks used to dominate the sector for a long time. Nonetheless, anticipating more and more asset management firms and commercial banks from this side of the world to get involved would not be a far-reaching expectation. It would cause a beneficial spread of power between large players from the continents of Asia and America, which could lead to better rates.

The post Brian Ladin Shares the Trends in Ship Financing to Look out for in 2020 appeared first on Prague Post.

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