Newswise — The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer and the NPR podcast Serial have generated public outrage over wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system, but situations like this are more common than the public might think, a Georgia State University legal expert said.
Jessie Gabel Cino, an associate professor of law, has worked on criminal cases similar to that of Steven Avery, the subject of Making a Murderer.
Cino is the co-founder of the Wrongful Convictions Project, which assisted defendants with claims of actual innocence. The project, which she helped to start while in law school at the University of Miami, continues today as the Innocence Clinic.
She consults in criminal and bankruptcy matters, and has represented clients in criminal cases pro bono. Cino successfully appealed the wrongful conviction and death sentence of Cory Maye in Mississippi.
Avery was convicted of rape in 1985 but was exonerated by DNA evidence, and convicted of murder in 2005. The documentary Making a Murderer questions the murder conviction and whether Avery was framed by police and prosecutors.
"For a mainstream audience, the concept of an innocent person being caught up in the legal system is something that is almost impossible to relate to," Cino said. "Having worked on these cases since I started law school, I struggle to tell a client who is sitting in prison on the other side of a glass barrier to be 'patient' with the legal process.
"I can’t pretend to 'understand' his anger, frustration, or hopelessness," she continued. "I can’t imagine what it’s like in prison when you’re supposed to be there -- let alone when you’re not."
While news reports on television may highlight stories of people who falsely confessed, were misidentified, or who were victims of prosecutorial misconduct, those short segments don't come close to showing how false convictions ruin lives of those who were convicted, their families -- and the victims, too, whose wounds are reopened, she said.
Cino said Making a Murderer's depth is unique in showing such stories about wrongful convictions, and its popularity speaks to how the subject has captured public interest -- though there are hundreds, or maybe thousands, of cases that the public may never hear about.
"That is about as in-depth as you can get," she said, and the depth is something that audiences apparently crave."
She teaches teaches courses on forensic evidence, forensic medicine, bankruptcy and contracts. She has written on a wide-range of topics, including the validity of forensic evidence genetic testing, forensic DNA identification, trial and jury tactics, bankruptcy fraud, lender liability, legal ethics and bioethics.
Cino also consults on various criminal and bankruptcy matters and has engaged in numerous pro bono criminal defense representations. You can read some of her work at http://works.bepress.com/jessica_gabel/. For Cino's biography, visit http://law.gsu.edu/profile/jessica-gabel-cino/.