The Dayton Daily News reports, "(Private Investigator Martin) Yant can tick off a laundry list of other problems with the [Elkins] case: sloppy police work, haphazard investigation, authorities rushing to judgment, incomplete forensics.Yant has written that he believes about 10,000 people in this country are wrongfully convicted each year. Of course, with all of the weapons that prosecutors are able to use, I suspect that even more people who are innocent are coerced into guilty pleas just because they don't have the resources to fight the state.
It is my belief that there are no excuses at all -- none -- for wrongful convictions. The forensic science is there to use, and everyone in the system is well aware of the real pitfalls in eyewitness indentifications. However, the problem is twofold. First, prosecutors rarely care. They are the products of law schools that preach winning at all costs, and since most of them either are elected or have political ambitions, being "tough on crime" is a requisite item on their resume, and being reflective and being thorough to make sure no errors are made simply is not "being tough."
Second, prosecutors can operate under cover of immunity. In most professions, people who make serious errors of judgment that result in real harm done to others are held accountable for their actions. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are protected by immunity.
Just as we saw reckless behavior on behalf of people on Wall Street who knew their backs were covered by the "Greenspan and Bernanke Put," prosecutors are covered by policies of immunity that protect them no matter how dishonest, illegal, and terrible their conduct. If one wishes to live a life of crime, I would tell that person to become a prosecutor, since the state always will seek to cover its own.
Michael Nifong never really had to pay for his crimes in the Duke Lacrosse Case. Even now, the system is bending backward to protect the police and Nifong for all of their lying, fabricating evidence, and criminal behavior. That is what "immunity" does: it enables those who "enforce the law" to break the law with impunity and pay no price for it.