With all the discussion of false rape convictions on this blog lately, I thought it could be worth pointing out that one form of false rape conviction doesn’t involve false accusations at all. Many false rape convictions now being discovered due to DNA analysis involve genuine rape victims who make good-faith, but mistaken, IDs.
One disturbing thing is the apparent connection between false IDs and race:
The racial mix of those exonerated, in general, mirrored that of the prison population, and the mix of those exonerated of murder mirrored the mix of those convicted of murder. But while 29 percent of those in prison for rape are black, 65 percent of those exonerated of the crime are.
Interracial rapes are, moreover, uncommon. Rapes of white women by black men, for instance, represent less than 10 percent of all rapes, according to the Justice Department. But in half of the rape exonerations where racial data was available, black men were falsely convicted of raping white women.
“The most obvious explanation for this racial disparity is probably also the most powerful,” the study says. “White Americans are much more likely to mistake one black person for another than to do the same for members of their own race.”
On the other hand, the study found that the leading causes of wrongful convictions for murder were false confessions and perjury by co- defendants, informants, police officers or forensic scientists.
One thing that may reduce false IDs is changing police proceedures for IDs by victims; the methods used by police too often send unspoken messages to the victim that “this guy here! He’s the one!” The Innocence Blog has an interesting post about methods of making the ID less subject to police bias.