The Innocence Files, a Netflix original documentary, has highlighted wrongful convictions across the United States including a case in Texas.
Defense attorneys are acutely aware of the high number of people who are convicted based on flimsy or falsified evidence, junk science, or coerced confessions. Now the Netflix series is educating a wider audience about the extent of the problem.
The Innocence Files focuses on the cases of eight wrongfully convicted people. They include the story of Alfred Dewayne Brown who was convicted of capital murder for the killings of two people in Houston in 2005.
Brown’s former girlfriend confirmed he was at her apartment at the time of the killings. However, she changed her testimony after a police officer threatened and intimidated her, the Innocence Project reported. The police officer later served as the foreman on Brown’s grand jury trial.
Brown became the 154th inmate to be exonerated from death row with the help of the Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi Law School.
The Innocence Files explores the main causes of wrongful convictions, namely prosecutorial misconduct, flawed scientific evidence and the misuse of eyewitness testimony.
The first installment examined the use of bite mark evidence in cases. Bite mark evidence matches bite patterns on a victim made by a suspect’s teeth. It became famous during the investigation into the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. It has since been discredited but was still used as a forensic tool for decades.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 debunked its use as a way of positively identifying perpetrators of crimes. However, dozens of people were convicted on the basis of bite mark evidence. The authorities
later exonerated many of them.
Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, said forensic science was misapplied in as many as half of all cases involving bite mark evidence.
The Innocence Files also featured Frankly Carrillo who was arrested in California in 1991 for murder when he was 16.
Multiple witnesses in a rival gang in his neighborhood in Lynwood named Carrillo as the shooter. However, the witnesses gave conflicting testimonies calling into question whether or not they had seen the shooter, leading to a hung jury and a mistrial.
The witnesses gave statements that more closely matched each other during the second trial. A jury convicted Carrillo of murder at the age of 17 even though one important witness recounted his statement citing improper pressure.
Carrillo spent years behind bars before he was exonerated in 2011. A legal team spoke to the witnesses in Carrillo’s case who all recanted their statements. They said they were manipulated by police officers into identifying Carrillo or by the suggestion of other witnesses.
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law. It works to release people who are wrongly convicted of crimes.
The non-profit points out the eight people profiled in The Innocence Files represent a tiny proportion of the thousands who are wrongfully convicted and mistreated by the criminal justice system every year.
The non-profit states about 4 percent of people sentenced to death in the United States are wrongly convicted. The National Registry of Exonerations points out 2,588 people have been exonerated in the United States since 1989. However, thousands of innocent people are languishing in prisons.
Texas routinely leads the nation in terms of numbers of exonerations. A backlog in drug testing in Harris County in 2017 led to scores of wrongful convictions.
Our Dallas defense attorneys fight for the rights of defendants. We have considerable experience in appealing decisions. Please call us for a consultation at (214) 720-9552