Posts Tagged ‘police negligence’

The role of police in wrongful convictions has been a heated debate for many years in Canada. Several high-profile cases have been in the media involving wrongful convictions in our courts. Following these cases, several high-end inquiries have taken place that have looked into the circumstances that produced these wrongful convictions, including police negligence, wrongdoing, and tunnel vision. One of the major aspects of wrongful convictions is tunnel vision; which is when the police focus their investigation towards one individual, and tend to forget about other possible suspects. They focus all their man power into convicting one person of interest while completely forgetting about other possibilities.
A wrongful conviction is exactly how it sounds, someone is wrongfully convicted of a crime that they did not commit, and the actual perpetrator is out there with his/her freedom. There have been many wrongful convictions that have made it to the spotlight, there are probably hundreds of others that still are forgotten. Many of these convictions were during the pre-DNA era, prior to the use of DNA testing. This is a common trend through many of the wrongful convictions that have occurred in Canada’s history. Many people were wrongfully convicted due to misconduct and lack of knowledge by the police.
While conducting an initial Google search on the topic “The Role of Police in Wrongful Convictions in Canada”, a number of interesting cases emerged. Several articles, some up to 90 pages in length, are present, and help showcase some of the reasons behind the wrongful convictions. Some of these articles including “Wrongful Convictions: The Effect of Tunnel Vision and Predisposing Circumstances in the Criminal Justice System” by Bruce MacFarlane give some insight into tunnel vision experienced by the police. Where they focus only on one suspect and work extremely hard to put them behind bars while forgetting about potential others.
Another result was a news article published by CBC news that highlights some major cases in Canadian history. It looks at twelve cases throughout Canada’s history and gives a brief description followed by an outcome. This article is written from the media’s perspective and no comments from the police are noted. Along with the other results this one is fairly recent, only a year old. It helped broaden my search on the topic by focusing on some of the major convictions that were overturned due to them being wrongful. It also gave me a case list of potential exploration on the topic for the future.
An interesting case that was found during the preliminary research done on the topic is the case of Ivan Henry. Ivan Henry was convicted of a number of sexual assaults in the 1980’s in Vancouver, and has spent 27 years in prison because of it. One of the key points resulting in his conviction was the victims identifying him from a photograph of a police line-up. Here is the photograph: Ivan Henry Police Lineup
One can clearly see why the victims chose him, because he is the one in a headlock and appears to be wild, unlike the other suspects who are all police officers with smiles on their faces. Now the question arises why were the police officers allowed to unjustly play games with this man’s future? It is clear that they are not taking their occupation seriously in this manner, and should have been reprimanded for their actions. These types of stories highlight the role of police in wrongful convictions. Some police officers engage in misconduct and have the potential to jeopardize the life’s of innocent citizens.
Another interesting case and the only Wikipedia link in the results was the case of Donald Marshall Jr. Though it was fairly short it provided some insight into the case, and gave another example of the role of police in wrongful convictions. In this case the police had a predetermined notion that Marshall was the killer. Even though the true killer had admitted to the stabbing, he later lied about his role to police. Donald Marshall Jr. was already known to police and therefore the police focused on him and became victims of tunnel vision focusing just on him and not other possible suspects. Unfortunately for Mr. Marshall he was released after serving 11 years of his prison sentence, which was life imprisonment. If it was not for a witness coming forward it is still possible the Mr. Marshall could still be in prison. A majority of the results where articles that were written by University professors, and a couple of media articles but none of them had any response from the police in them. None of the search results yielded a police apology or mentioned any investigation to be completed.