Document Type


Publication Date

January 2008


This article analyzes five forces that may raise the risk of convicting the innocent based upon the suspect's race: the selection, ratchet, procedural justice, bystanders, and aggressive-suspicion effects. In other words, subconscious forces press police to focus more attention on racial minorites, the ratchet makes this focus every-increasing, the resulting sense by the community of unfair treatment raises its involvment in crime while lowering its willingness to aid the police in resisting crime, innocent persons suffer when their skin color becomes associated with criminality, and the police use more aggressive techniques on racial minorities in a way that raises the risk of reply upon a false confession, a mistaken eyewitness identifcication, or other flawed investigation method that raises the risk of error. The piece explains how these five forces interact to promote racially-biased wrongful convictions. The final major portion of the article uses the plight of informants as a case study to demonstrate the interaction of these techniques to promote further mistakes.