B6. Did this man have a fair trial – or could this have been a ‘wrongful conviction’?

In case you haven’t seen it yet, this might be a good time to view the 20-minute video that puts this case study in its broader perspective.

The whole idea that this murder, which was clearly carried out by the son, might have involved any kind of cooperation from the father, came from the detective’s ‘hearing’ the words ‘at the start we made a pact’ in a covert recording.

Of course I put ‘hearing’ in inverted commas because the detective didn’t really hear those words, which were never spoken. Nevertheless, those words played an important role in the trial as whole, because the detective’s transcript influenced the perception of everyone who subsequently heard the covert recording.

So much so that the recording was called ‘direct evidence’ – as opposed to all the other evidence against the father which, as explained by the judge, was circumstantial.

Could it be that once the concept of a ‘pact’ had been planted in people’s minds, all the circumstantial evidence ‘fell into place’ around the idea that the murder was a joint criminal enterprise masterminded by the father?

That is more than speculation. Recent research has shown that this kind of ‘tunnel vision’ is a crucial factor known to increase the likelihood of wrongful conviction.

In fact, looking through the known risk factors shows that this case involves quite a number. You could even say it was a textbook case.

Check it out for yourself here and see if you agree: Gould, J. B., Carrano, J., Leo, R., & Young, J. (2012). Predicting erroneous convictions: A social science approach to miscarriages of justice. National Institute of Justice.

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