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3 Different Root Two: Cultural Collectivism Causing Wrongful Convictions in China

3 Different Root Two: Cultural Collectivism Causing Wrongful Convictions in China

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Chapter 7

Different Mechanisms for Wrongful


7.1 Introduction

Many wrongful convictions have been rectified through diverse mechanisms

recently in China, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) and in

Canada. Given the inevitability of wrongful convictions and the divergence of

mechanisms for them in the four jurisdictions, it is essential to examine the difference of such mechanisms in order to create an effective one for rectifying them.

This chapter will discuss how the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) review

death sentences and how wrongful convictions can be rectified through the procedure for trial Supervision in China. As follows, it will further explore how the

Criminal Cases Review Committees (CCRC) in the UK, Innocence Projects in the

US, or the ministerial review of criminal cases in Canada respectively works in its

approach to discover and correct wrongful convictions in practice. Finally, it will

evaluate these mechanisms for such convictions in order to conclude with suggestions on how to create a more effective mechanism for better rectifying them in

China. In case studies, some officially identified wrongful convictions are selected

as research object. China should establish an independent and professional review

commission, drawing on overseas experience and lessons. With modifications on

such mechanisms, the new agency will prompt courts to better rectify them.

7.2 The Supreme People’s Court Review and Trial

Supervision in China

In China, the SPC reviews death sentences by law and may approve most of them

in practice, thus its function to correct wrongful convictions in capital cases being

seriously weakened. Trial supervision as the only mechanism for post-conviction

correction cannot effectively play its due role in rectifying the convictions. Also,

there is no procedure for proving the accused’s innocence.

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

N. Jiang, Wrongful Convictions in China, DOI 10.1007/978-3-662-46084-9_7



7  Different Mechanisms for Wrongful Convictions

7.2.1 Final Review by the SPC

As a remedy for wrongful death sentences, the SPC has cautiously reassumed its

power to review death sentences, which it had previously delegated to provincial

HPCs. This change is designed to deepen the death penalty reforms that have been

implemented after the adoption of the SPC’s Outline of the People’s Court on the

Second Five-Year Reform.1 Even with the Supervisory Bureau of Death Penalty

Review established inside the Supreme People’s Court (SPP) in August 2012 for

implementation of the 2012 Criminal Procedure Law of the PRC (CPL),2 the

absence of necessary defense representation or adequate transparency in each

review appears to be obstacles to preventing wrongful convictions. Review Processes and Error Correction

The appeal process for death sentences underwent many changes before the SPC

resumed its power of final review. The SPC’s authority was undermined from time

to time in order to expedite the process of final review, e.g., during ‘Strike Hard’

campaigns of 1983, 1996 and 2001, which involved severe and swift justice as part

of a campaign to strike ‘heavy blows at the enemies of China’s modernization

drive’.3 Unfortunately, the SPC’s review process is still rudimentary and inadequate because it conducts some reviews in private, without sufficient input from

defence counsel. The SPC’s insufficient transparency and openness potentially

increases the difficulty of discovering and correcting misjudged cases and leads to

arbitrary death sentences contrary to the new penal policy.

To prevent wrongful convictions in capital cases, the reviews should be conducted in public, include more participation by the defence party and cover all

death sentences. Procedures should be implemented to allow the defense party to

meet face-to-face with SPC judges. Since the review procedure is the last line of

defence for preventing potential errors and correcting all errors in death sentences,

the need to include defense representatives and more transparency becomes very

essential in practice. The 2012 CPL regards participation of defense lawyers

into the inquisitorial review process as an option, thus increasing the high risk of

wrongful convictions or executions.


The Second Five-Year Reform Outlines for the People’s Court, CHINA JUDGE (Oct. 26,

2005), available at: http://www.china-judge.com/ReadNews.asp?NewsID=3284&BigClassID=


2See LI Rongchun, The SPP Has Established the Supervisory Bureau of Death Penalty Review

[Zuigaojian Yisheli Sixing Fuhe Jianchating], Caixin [Finance News] Web (26 February, 2013),

available at: http://china.caixin.com/2013-02-26/100494432.html.

3Susan Trevaskes, Severe and Swift Justice in China, 47 British Journal of Criminology 2007 (1),

p. 23.

7.2  The Supreme People’s Court Review and Trial Supervision in China

211 Final Decisions and Error Correction

Although the SPC’s review power was delineated by the National People’s

Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in the Organic Law of the People’s Court, it

is uncertain to what degree its final decisions help to correct errors in death sentences from the HPCs that either passed them in the first instance or reviewed

them in the second instance. The newly established tribunals for SPC review

began to review all death sentences with immediate execution in 2007 and since

then ‘there has been a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty’.4 But

the SPC’s role remains uncertain because of the government’s refusal to publish

statistics on the use of the death penalty.5

For instance, the first death penalty case that was reviewed and approved by the

SPC is Case TAO Jianhua, which was reported by official media in 2007 to be the

first execution in Beijing after the restoration of the SPC’s exclusive review.6

Although the reform is designed to improve the quality of final decisions on death

sentences and reduce the number of innocent people convicted in death row, there

is no clear report on its actual implementation and it seems not to bring any substantive positive changes. This ‘secret’ approach tends to promote the deterrent

value of executions and not transparency or accountability of preventing wrongful

death sentences. For instance, their deterrence would be lost if the Government

deliberately publicized low figures of annual executions and death sentences,7 but

it is still uncertain whether some flaws inherent in the review process before the

reform have been mended or not after the SPC review reforms. Clearly, short

review periods cannot suffice to prevent miscarriages of justice, as witnessed in

the varying amounts of time spent reviewing capital cases before the reform. For

example, the average time is 77 days from the beginning of first trial to the end of

final SPC review of death sentences, with the shortest being 2 days and the longest

being 810 days, with 102 days being the average.8 Particularly given the increase

4Death sentences and executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012 (27 March 2012), available at: http://


5See Amnesty International, Death Sentences and Executions 2010 (28 March 2011), 19–20.

6See “First death penalty prisoner executed in Beijing following restoration of SPC review”

[Beijing shouming jing zuigao fayuan fuhe de sixing fan zuobei zhixing sixing] (北京首名经最高

法院复核的死刑犯昨被执行死刑), China Youth Daily [zhongguo qingnian bao](中国青年报),

28 June 2007, available at: http://zqb.cyol.com/content/2007-06/28/content_1807841.htm; “This

year’s first death penalty prisoner executed this morning” [jinnian shouge sixing fan shangwu

fufa] (今年首个死刑犯上午伏法), Legal Evening News [fazhi wanbao] (法制晚报) 27 June

2007, available at: http://news.163.com/07/0627/17/3I0SDITJ000120GU.html; also see China:

The Olympics countdown: Repression of activists overshadows death penalty and media reforms,

ASA 17/015/2007, p. 6; see China: The Olympics Countdown—one year left to fulfil human

rights promises, AI Index: ASA 17/024/2007, p. 2.

7See Andrew Scobell, “The Death Penalty in Post-Mao China”. (123) China Quarterly (1990):


8See Hong Lu and Lening Zhang, Death penalty in China: The law and the practice, Journal of

Criminal Justice 33 (2005) 367–376.


7  Different Mechanisms for Wrongful Convictions

of executions from 470 in 2007 to 1718 in 2008,9 it is very unlikely to accept that

SPC review has prevented the execution of the innocent, especially given the flaws

of both the trial and review process. Unilateral SPC Reviews without Referral

Not all death sentences under SPC reviews are approved. The SPC may remand

cases they do not approve of back to lower courts for further consideration or

rescind them by law.10 Of all capital cases under unilateral SPC review, without

remand to lower courts, only about 30 % of the 520 capital cases in the recent survey were finally approved after the SPC’s review, including a few violent or property offenses. Since China’s death penalty policy has been changed, influenced by

the new criminal policy of Combining Punishment with Leniency, the SPC should

cautiously approve death sentences in order to reduce the number of executions

and decrease the possibility that an innocent person will be executed.

The other option which the SPC can take in handling death sentences is to

rescind the original sentence so that the convict may get a more lenient one or be

free after its unilateral reviews without referral. Under the 2012 CPL, new revisions of the review procedure tend to highlight the SPC’s power to commute death

sentences more than they highlight guarantee of legal oversight without defence

lawyers’ necessary participation, which requires coping with a heavy workload of

death sentences in order to balance approval and commutation in a manner more

conducive to both criminal justice and efficiency in the review process. Although

the 2007 Regulations on Several Issues in Review of Death Penalty Cases provide the SPC with the power of revision or referral, if ‘not to approve the original

sentence with unclear facts and insufficient evidence’, the approach available to

the SPC is basically either approval or referral. Hence, it is essential to specify

detailed implementation measures, e.g., the participation of the defence and his or

her counsel in the review process, so as to better prevent potential errors in SPC’s

final review.

7.2.2 Trial Supervision

In China, which has retained the death penalty, the safety nets used to remedy

wrongful convictions are quite different from those used in abolitionist countries.

Only the post-conviction remedy of a retrial through the procedure of trial supervision applies in cases where errors or innocence are alleged. Without the use of

double jeopardy rules, Chinese prosecutors or judges can actively appeal adverse

9See Amnesty International 2008e; ‘Abolish the death penalty’. Amnesty International, available

at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty.

10See Article 239 of the 2012 CPL.

7.2  The Supreme People’s Court Review and Trial Supervision in China


determinations of guilt or innocence based on same facts for an unlimited number

of times, and defendants are subject to a retrial where the original verdict is in

doubt. But the absence of such limits does not explain more chances to initiate

the procedure for retrial by law in China than other jurisdictions. For example, in

England and Wales, the Criminal Justice Act of 2003 allows for retrying acquittal

cases, so long as the Director of Public Prosecution agrees and new compelling

evidence can justify setting aside acquittals. In Canada, trials are not considered

“finished” for the purpose of double jeopardy until appeals are exhausted.

The 2012 CPL specifies a procedure for the retrial of cases where new evidence, the unreliability of old evidence, an error of law in application, or illegal

procedures detrimental to a fair trial are confirmed. Courts can re-open convictions

after appeals have been exhausted on the ground that a petition presented by a

party, his legal representative or his near relative conforms to ‘new evidence proving that the confirmation of the facts in the original judgment or order is definitely

wrong’, or ‘the evidence upon which the condemnation was made and punishment

meted out is unreliable and insufficient, or the major pieces of evidence for supporting the facts of the case contradict each other’, ‘the application of law in making the original judgment or order is definitely incorrect’, or ‘the judges in trying

the case committed acts of embezzlement, bribery, or malpractices for personal

gain, or bended the law in making judgment’ (Article 242). On the grounds of definite errors of law or fact, the president of any court, the SPC or the Supreme

People’s Procuratorate (SPP) could re-open convictions. Respectively, presidents

must refer them to a trial committee11; the SPC or higher-level courts can retry

cases or direct lower courts to do so; the SPP or higher-level procuratorates can

protest court judgments, which also leads to a retrial.

In practice, nearly all of the wrongfully convicted insisted on their factual

innocence, as is evidenced by the rectification of wrongful convictions in 2014

(Table 7.1). In presenting petitions to courts, procuratorates, party committees or

governments, they and their relatives paid a high price for exonerating them. When

courts or powerful institutions, i.e., the SPP, other procuratorates, governments or

party committees who greatly influence courts’ decisions, promote investigating

cases to initiate retrials, can they be judicially rectified due to a great influence on

error correction. Also, the media has played an essential role in promoting the correction of wrongful convictions.

As demonstrated from the above cases involving the death penalty or life

imprisonment, thirteen wrongly convicts were rectified by courts’ acquittal or

procuratorates’ stays in prosecution, due to unclear facts or insufficient evidence after constant petitions that lasted five till eighteen years. Courts acquitted

the accused at retrial or in appeal in nine of the total twelve cases, such as Case

ZHANG Guangxiang, Case WANG Jianfeng, Case OUYANG Jia, Case NIAN

11The trial committee is the most authoritative body in a People’s court at any levels in China,

which is composed of the court’s presidents, division chiefs and experienced judges of the court

as members appointed by its standing committee, with main mandates to summarize judicial

experience and discuss difficult cases so as to direct judges’ and collegial panels’ work.

7  Different Mechanisms for Wrongful Convictions


Table 7.1  Twelve Chinese wrongful convictions that were judicially rectified in 2014







Case ZHANG Robbery


Case WANG Robbery






Case GAO

Ruju and XIE


The crime

of delivering



Case XU Hui Murder;





The death

penalty with a

suspension of


The death

penalty with a

suspension of


10 years’



for 10 years

and one half

The death


The death


The death

penalty with a

suspension of



Case HUANG Murder



The death

Case CHEN Murder

penalty with a


suspension of



Case WANG Murder



Case WANG Illegal sales; 10 years’

transporta- Imprisonment


tion of


The death

Case Huugjilt Indecent









of time

11 years


in the 2nd


11 years

Exoneration at 2 years


5 years


in the 2nd


Withdrawing 10 years



in the 2nd


8 years






The people’s court






The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court

The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court






The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court

Exoneration in 16 years


The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court

Exoneration in 18 years


5 years


in the 2nd


The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court

The peo- Acquittal

ple’s court

Exoneration in 10 years


Withdrawing 5 years


The people’s court




The people’s court

Exoneration in 18 years






See The Media Summarizes Major Wrongful Convictions that Were Rectified after the 18th

Conference [meiti pandian shiba da hou jiuzheng de zhongda yuanjia cuoan], available at: http://


7.2  The Supreme People’s Court Review and Trial Supervision in China


Bin, Case XU Hui, Case HUANG Jiaguang, Case CHEN Qinqin, Case WANG

Yuansong and Case Huugjilt. In general, the SPC and Higher People’s Courts

(HPCs) more detached than courts originally hearing cases would be less likely

not to correct wrongful convictions due to pressure from other agencies. On average, it took courts eight years to judicially rectify recent wrongful convictions,

of which the longest is eighteen years in Case Huugjilt whose conviction was

wrongly executed in 62 days.

Among the five cases that were newly rectified at retrial, court retrials in

the three ones including the HUANG Jiaguang case, the XU Hui case and the

WANG Jiangfeng case resulted from procuratorial organs’ drive. For instance,

in the HUANG Jiaguang case of Hainan province, Hainan provincial procuratorate accepted his appeal from November 2003 and also found his appeal grounds

to be insufficient three years later, in January 2007. Until October 2013, the

SPP reviewed the case and subsequently issued a proposal for retrial to the SPC,

which finally prompted the Hainan HPC to make a verdict of not-guilty. Another

example is the XU Hui case of Guangdong province. In March 2007, Guangdong

Provincial Procuratorate issued the proposal for prosecution to the Guangdong

HPC to suggest retrying the case and then a proposal to correct illegal prosecution

to the Zhuhai IPC in order to urge it to decide cases as sooner as possible. Thus,

the Procuratorate’s drive made original sentences be commuted to lighter ones in

September 2014.

The legal bases for such procuratorial conducts are as follows: One is Article

129 of the Constitution of the PRC (Constitution), according to which the procuratorates are legal supervision organs of the state, with the power to protest

against wrongful effective judgments made by courts, in order to ensure the proper

implementation of laws. The other is on Articles 205 and 206 of the 2012 CPL,

according to which higher-level procuratorates finding the effective judgment of

lower-level courts to be wrongful should protest against it to the same-level courts,

and courts shall form a panel to retry cases. Even so, in practice the procuratorates

hardly protest against effective convictions before communicating with courts, so

as to maintain good relations with police officers or judges. Once they do so, protests often lead courts to overturn convictions.

Furthermore, the media has played an important role in the correction of major

wrongful convictions in China. The case of Huugjilt provides a good example

in this point. As early as over ten years ago, leaders in local procuratorates held

the view that the procuratorates should present protests against his convictions,

because relevant courts did not acquit Huugjilt according to legal procedures but

went against the principle of the presumption of innocence. Even so, the procuratorates’ proposal for a retrial of the case had still been delayed for many years by

local courts responsible for wrongful convictions and compensating wrongly convicts by law effective then. In order to push forward the retrial process, the media

had constantly revealed the facts of institutional obstacles to retrials and competing interests of justice institutions involving the case.

Without the great help of the media, i.e., Legal Evening Newspaper [fazhi wanbao] as the first to report a potential retrial of the case soon and constantly push


7  Different Mechanisms for Wrongful Convictions

forward its development in over ten years, Huugjilt’s conviction would probably

not have been judicially corrected by courts. Apart from the traditional media like

newspapers, the internet has also played an essential and even a more important

role than traditional media in driving courts to rectify his conviction. As a director

of the Newspaper had revealed, the difficulties in substantively pushing forward

the retrial process of this case mainly resulted from the pressure of those originally

handling the Huugjilt case. Even though they currently hold higher positions in the

police, procuratorates or courts with more chances to delay the retrial process and

prevent sanctions from being imposed for Huugjilt’s conviction, the media still

kept on counteracting the effects of their undue delays in diverse forms.

In summary, there is no independent or professional agency or any procedure

for proving innocence available in China to help the accused or wrongly convicted

defend justice in practice. Even in cases of convicting the innocent, the wrongly

convicted still have limited resources so as not to produce evidence strongly supporting their petitions against convictions. Without the accused’s strong evidence,

regrettably, there is no way for the SPC review to properly rectifying wrongful

convictions in capital cases or trial supervision to correct errors in conviction as

required by law. Together with the frequent reluctance of courts to retry cases

or of procuratorates to protest against convictions, it would be more difficult for

the accused to prove his or her innocence, even with convincing new evidence.

In addition to strengthening the freedom of press, such difficulties call for further

reforms to create an independent agency like the CCRC in the UK, responsible

for investigating or reviewing criminal cases, in order to prompt courts to rectify

errors in conviction.

7.3 The Criminal Cases Review Committees in the United

Kingdom (UK)

In order to improve passivity in ordering court retrials, the CCRC was created by

Section 8 of the Criminal Appeal Act (CAA) 1995. The CCRC is an independent

public organisation that provides post-appeal remedies for “suspected miscarriages

of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.12 It has sufficient funds to perform its principle duties “to investigate cases where people believe they have been

wrongly convicted of a criminal offence or wrongly sentenced”.13 Actually, it is an

independent investigative body, which was set up as a response to the revelation of

some high profile miscarriages of justice in England and Wales. After conducting

investigations into such cases, commissioners in the CCRC often conclude with

essential decisions on whether or not to send applicants’ cases back to courts for

new appeals.



Cases Review Commission, available at: http://www.ccrc.gov.uk/about-us/.

7.3  The Criminal Cases Review Committees in the United Kingdom (UK)


In nature, the CCRC in the UK is an independent, non-departmental public

body established for investigating into potential miscarriages. The CCRC differs from the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice as a sector of the Home

Secretary, who is a member of the British government. Neither individual institutional arrangements can avoid potential conflicts of interests among powers forming convictions and those correcting wrongful ones, nor do collective mechanisms

with the Royal Commission constitutionally separate judicial and administrative

powers. Instead, the CCRC is intended to ensure independence and impartiality

in handling alleged wrongful convictions for better remedies, particularly in cases

where appeal rights have been exhausted.

With expansive mandates, the CCRC generally has the power to consider the

issues related to suspected miscarriages of justice raised by applicants or their

representatives, and to arrange for their independent investigation to seek new

grounds for appeal as its principle role. It also has the power to refer criminal

cases to the Court of Appeal if there is a “real possibility” of success.

Specifically, the CCRC can review the convictions of those claiming to be

wrongly found guilty of criminal offences, wrongly sentenced or who have other

claims of suspected miscarriages of justice. It can further seek information on the

alleged wrongful convictions by conduct investigations on its own or with others’

assistance. After completing the needed investigations, it can decide whether or not

to send the cases back for retrial, on grounds of a “real possibility” that the Court

will rectify wrongful convictions or sentences in these cases. Moreover, only after

the CCRC remits back cases that merit intensive review to the Court of Appeal for

a further consideration, can the Court determine whether to overturn convictions or

not. The legal basis for it to consider and decide cases is Section 2(1) of the CAA

1968, according to which the Court may determine to quash them if finding them

to be “unsafe or unsatisfactory” after investigating cases.

As an independent agency, the CCRC has investigative powers to obtain documentation from any public body.14 Its mandate is to review potential wrongful

convictions, based on new evidence or arguments that may question the reliability

of original convictions, and then decide whether to refer cases in which there is a

“real possibility” that convictions will be overturned at retrial to appeal courts for

reconsideration.15 As of 31 July 2015, the CCRC had received 19,733 applications

in total, 18,350 cases of which were reviewed, 595 cases were referred for appeal,

including 573 cases that were ultimately heard by the Court of Appeal.16 Apart

from dismissing 167 appeals and allowing 392, the Court of Appeal can refuse to

hear cases referred by the CCRC.17

14Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, “Toward the Formation of “Innocence Commissions” in

America”, 86 JUDICATURE 98, 100 (2002).

15“About the Criminal Cases Review Commission”, available at: http://www.ccrc.gov.uk/canwe/


16See Case Library, “Statistics on Cases Dealt with by the CCRC and CCRC Case Library”,

available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/criminal-cases-review-commission/case-library.



7  Different Mechanisms for Wrongful Convictions

The CCRC has been generally accepted as an independent model of worldwide

experience in remedying wrongful convictions. Its admirable effectiveness18 and

efficiency mainly lies in its independence from any branch of government (ensuring the impartiality of decisions), in its professionalism (most of its members are

criminal justice experts), and in the wide-range of investigative powers it can use

to ensure the integrity of its factual identifications. Over one-third of CCRC members, who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime

Minister, are “legally qualified”, and the other members are well experienced in

criminal justice.19 The sufficiently resourced CCRC has strong legal powers to

appoint officers to conduct searches and commission new expert evidence on its

behalf. Such advantages are expected to thoroughly and impartially investigate

potential wrongful convictions, without any influence from resources.

Compared with Innocence Projects in the US, the CCRC of the UK is widely

accepted as a more ‘impressive, efficient, powerful and superior’ agency.20 There

are at least two main advantages in the CCRC over Innocence Projects. First, the

CCRC is better resourced than Innocence Projects. The funds of Innocence

Projects in the US are mainly raised from donated services, individuals, foundations and corporations in general. As reported from fiscal year July 1, 2012–June

30, 2013, for example, the Innocence Project received 42 % of its funding from

donated services, 35 % from individuals, 9 % from foundations or fundraising

events, 3 % from Yeshiva University, and 1 % from corporations, government or

other revenue.21 In fact, Innocence Projects have been resource-starved for

years.22 On the contrary, the CCRC in the UK as a public agency basically never

need to worry about whether or not to have or how to get adequate funds. Second,

the CCRC of the UK can appoint an investigator from another public institution to

conduct searches and arrests on the behalf of the CCRC. This unique power can

help the CCRC thoroughly or effectively investigate cases. But Innocence Projects

in the US have no such power.

However, the CCRC concerns individual error-correction and does not propose

for systematic reforms on how to better remedy miscarriages of justice in future

practice. Even if the CCRC is concerned with only the safety of verdicts in

England and Wales, its intended purpose of protecting the wrongfully convicted

innocent may fail to be realized when the English judicial system emphasizes the

finality of original convictions much. Also, it often takes a long time to examine

18See Keith A. Findley, “Learning from Our Mistakes: A Criminal Justice Commission to Study

Wrongful Convictions”, 38 CAL. W. L. REV. 333, 348 (2002).

19Criminal Appeal Act, 1995, c. 35, s. 8.

20Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, Toward the Formation of “Innocence Commissions” in

America, 86 JUDICATURE 98, 101 (2002).

21See III Financials, in ABOUT US, INNOCENCE PROJECT, available at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/about-innocence-project/financials.

22See Robert Schehr and Lynne Weathered, Should the United States Establish a Criminal Cases

Review Commission?, 88 JUDICATURE 122, 122 (2004).

7.3  The Criminal Cases Review Committees in the United Kingdom (UK)


cases, and exaggerates its success by counting individuals’ number rather than


7.4 Innocence Projects in the US

The Innocence Project in the US is a non-profit legal organization with the commitment to assisting those being convicted but likely proven innocent through the

use of DNA testing and to preventing future wrongful convictions through further

reforms in the criminal justice system.24 It was found early in 1992 by Barry

Scheck and Peter Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, at Yeshiva

University. It is also a founder of the Innocence network, an agency of law or journalism schools and of defence offices across the world that coordinate with one

another to provide the convicted with information or expertise in order to help him

or her prove innocence.

All of Innocence Projects are dedicated to review requests from inmates, investigate into the requests that meet their respective screening criteria and represent

those seeking post-conviction DNA testing in order to help them prove their innocence. So far, 333 wrongly convicts in the US have been judicially exonerated

through the use of DNA testing, including twenty convicts who spent many years

on death row.25 With great efforts of full-time staff attorneys and clinic students to

directly represent and critically assist them, the Innocence Project in the US has

made full use of DNA technology to help the innocent free from convictions in

many cases. Its work proves that exonerating the innocent is not isolated, but their

convictions arising from systemic defects could be better prevented by substantive

reform to the system responsible for their wrongful convictions.

The Innocence Project in the US also works with legislators or policy makers

who have the power to adopt laws or administrative policies on the prevention of

wrongful convictions in order to make the innocent easier to access to remedies

for the better justice. On the whole, improving fairness and accuracy benefits all of

the society in any justice system.26 Particularly, the victim party can see justice in

the criminal process in order to increase public confidence with the system; courts,

prosecutors and police can achieve justice by properly enforcing laws; and the

innocent can be protected from being wrongly convicted. Based on lessons learned

from DNA exonerations in the past three decades, the Innocence Project focuses

23See Bob Woffinden, The Criminal Cases Review Commission has failed, The Guardian, 30

November 2010.

24See Our Work, available at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/.

25See Exonerating the Innocent, available at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent/


26See Improve the Law, available at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent/improvethe-law/legislative-reform.

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