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2014 was landmark year for overturning convictions

Being accused of a crime is a difficult event to absorb. Defendants will often seek to make a strong defense to lessen or drop some or all of the charges against them. In some matters, these allegations turn into conviction, leaving the defendant still trying to prove their innocence, even while in prison.

Residents in Iowa may have seen a recent news article about the great news for those who have been wrongly convicted of crimes. In 2014, a record 125 defendants were exonerated for crimes they didn't commit, thanks in part to widespread technological advances and passionate defense attorneys who represented these people against the odds.

This news is perhaps a little bittersweet because it also highlights all the people across the nation who are wrongly accused and pay a dear price. Many of these wrongfully accused victims were convicted of serious crimes including rape, murder and other crimes that carry lengthy prison terms. In one murder case, the wrongfully accused spent 39 years behind bars before having his conviction reversed.

In some of these exoneration cases, DNA evidence has set people accused of sex crimes free after evidence was retested using better methods. In other cases, witnesses recanted their statements or other people came forward with enough evidence to overturn the conviction. Whatever the route to justice, the end result is something that should be celebrated.

In more than half of the 125 exoneration cases in 2014, law enforcement either initiated or cooperated in the process. The results speak for themselves, the exonerated get a second chance at life while the public in general is given an example of the justice system correcting its mistakes.

People in Iowa who have been accused of serious crimes based on questionable grounds should not give up hope, but should continue fighting for justice. When innocent people are punished for crimes they did not commit, nobody wins. Whether you are making a sentencing appeal or are seeking to have a conviction reversed, defendants should understand their legal rights and options so they can take appropriate action and protect these rights.

Source: Huffington Post "Exonerations Of The Wrongfully Convicted Hit Record High In The U.S. In 2014," Mary Wisniewski, Jan. 27, 2015

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