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It can't happen here

When it comes to wrongful convictions, most people make the same mistake. They say something like, "it could never happen to me, I've never done anything illegal." But of course, if you were convicted and you had committed an illegal act, it wouldn't be a wrongful conviction, would it?

The other fact many people miss is that they cannot imagine that the system can make a mistake so large that "it" would convict an innocent person. It does, and it potentially does it every day in every state in the union. Some cases are eventually reversed and the accused is exonerated, but many serve their full sentence, and some probably die in prison.

What is most frustrating about much of this is once the web of misstatements, false confessions and manipulated evidence and witnesses begin to unravel, prosecutors often fight by every possible means to prevent the wrongful conviction from being undone.

Because as much as the word credibility is tossed around, it is often the credibility of the prosecutors that is most in question. Too often, it becomes uncertain where the highest priority lies; defending their office or seeing that justice is done.

And many people don't believe a case involving a wrongful conviction could happen in a town like Columbia. Maybe in a big city on the coasts or even St. Louis. But the ordeal of Ryan Ferguson undercuts that overconfidence.

As the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer and Ryan's case demonstrates, it does happen in small towns like Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Columbia, Missouri and it does two immense disservices to the community.

One, it puts an innocent person in prison, stripping them of their liberty and marking them with a conviction that even if they are released, will make the remainder of their life difficult.

Second, it allows a guilty person to remain free, potentially committing new crimes while remaining unpunished.

We all deserve better than that.

Source: cbsnew.com, "RYAN FERGUSON: WRONGFULLY CONVICTED," Erin Moriarty, January 30, 2016

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