An Integrated Justice Model of Wrongful Convictions
Part I provides a brief overview of the innocence movement and the related issues of defining a wrongful conviction and estimating the size of the problem. Parts II A and B present a historical sketch of the innocence movement’s development in the United States from a social constructivist perspective. Many law review articles describe the rise of the innocence movement in a flattened way before getting on to the meat of their studies. A simplified standard version of this history is that DNA happened, innocent prisoners were exonerated, and innocence projects sprung up. These accounts, in their brevity, downplay the role of human agency. The account herein explores the actions and inferred motives of key innocence movement actors. Their actions and writings created an intersubjective understanding of the innocence paradigm that shaped the movement. This perspective illuminates the agenda-setting and policy-driven nature of the movement.
Most accounts take the innocence paradigm for granted. I argue in Part II that the innocence paradigm was fashioned so as to bring together disparate elements of an innocence puzzle, viewed as causes of wrongful convictions, into a synergistic whole. As a human, intellectual construct, the innocence paradigm created a unified foundation and strategy for viewing wrongful convictions as an area for policy reform. This paradigm provided an intellectual framework for the innocence movement’s policy agenda. The contours of the innocence paradigm are sketched in Part II C. Part III presents the IJM, which examines the policy landscape of the innocence movement. It draws a picture of the innocence movement’s domains, and their ideals, institutions, actors, operating constructs, and problem areas. It is a heuristic device intended to make explicit the innocence movement’s policy context. The IJM does not seek to supplant the innocence paradigm, which continues to serve a useful function.