Ordinarily, citizens in democratic societies go about their daily business safe in the knowledge that law enforcement is there to protect and the legal system is based on incontrovertible proof. When a miscarriage of justice occurs, innocent people are plucked out of their daily lives and thrust into a world of forced confessions, strip searches and lengthy prison terms, signing their lives away for crimes they did not commit.
Locked away for years, sometimes decades, behind bars without having done a thing wrong is an unbearable thought and the stuff of nightmares. More often than not, such cases are compounded by the knowledge that the true perpetrator is still at large. Free to commit more heinous crimes and free of public judgement. What follows are the ten most heart-breaking miscarriages of justice.
10. Barry George
Barry George was wrongly convicted of the murder of UK newsreader and TV presenter, Jill Dando in 2001. Shot dead on her West London doorstep in April 1999, Dando’s killer and their motives, remain unknown. George served eight years in Belmarsh Prison before being retried in 2008 where he was acquitted.
George has a problematic police history and has served time in the past. He has Asperger syndrome, epilepsy, brain damage and an IQ of just 75, all of which makes him an incredibly vulnerable member of society. George claims he was convicted due to his “disposable” life and the high profile nature of the Dando case.
9. West Memphis Three
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelly Jr. and Jason Baldwin otherwise known as the West Memphis Three, were convicted as teens for the murders of three young boys: Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore. Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection, and his co-defendants sentenced to life. Echols spent eighteen years on death row before being released. After the re-testing of DNA evidence from the crime scene, it was found that none of the evidence matched any of the defendants.
The case was eventually re-heard and the little used Alford Plea was invoked. This allows the defendants to make a guilty plea whilst maintaining their innocence. The three were released with time served and a ten-year suspended sentence. Because of the nature of the Alford Plea, debate over the trio’s innocence in public forums runs rampant to this day.