Many people in Virginia and throughout America are influenced by unconscious biases. In other words, they make decisions or form opinions on issues based on information processed in their subconscious. Research has indicated that judges tend to make decisions as much on feel as they do on the facts in a case. This may result in harsher sentences being handed down to black or LGBTQ defendants.
Blood spatter may be a factor in the evidence introduced in homicide, assault and other cases involving violent crimes in Virginia. This kind of analysis of bloodstains has been featured on TV shows like "CSI" and has played a major role in securing convictions in several high-profile murder cases. However, the field of science is being questioned by other experts who say that blood spatter analysis does not produce the kind of certainty required to jail or even execute people for a crime.
Virginia residents who are convicted of minor crimes are often ordered to perform community service. Community service is intended to provide judges with a humane alternative to incarceration for offenders who lack the means to pay fines and court fees, but the results of a study conducted recently by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles suggest that being ordered to work without pay actually makes life worse for these offenders.
Crime statistics collected by the FBI show a steady decline in violent crime rates. Since 1993, violent crime has decreased by approximately 50% in Virginia and nationwide. Property crimes have dropped as well, but police have been arresting more and more people despite the apparent decrease in serious criminal activity. Petty crimes account for many arrests. Research by the RAND Corporation indicates that police accused 31% of arrestees of committing misdemeanors.
Jailhouse informants are valuable sources of information for prosecutors in Virginia and around the country, but their testimony is often only given in return for a reduced sentence or other concessions. Information that could bring the credibility of a prosecution witness into question must be turned over to criminal defendants and their attorneys under what is known as the Brady rule, but this does not always happen when prisoners agree to testify.
A federal judge in Virginia ruled on Sept. 4 that the government's terrorist watchlist violates the constitutional rights of the more than 1 million people who have been placed on it. The case challenging the watchlist was brought by more than 20 Muslim-Americans and argued before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs are being supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Individuals who are currently sitting in jail or prison in Virginia may have been wrongfully convicted. According to a study conducted by a research team at Pennsylvania University, roughly 6% of participants said that they were innocent of the charges against them. The team asked 3,000 prisoners in the state a series of questions such as why participants felt that they were wrongly convicted. Participants answered these queries anonymously over a period of six months.
When people in Virginia buy technologically advanced doorbells, they may not realize that they are also signing up for an agreement with the police. Ring is one company, recently purchased by Amazon, that produces doorbells with a video feed. Homeowners can see who is at the door by checking the connected app on their mobile phones. However, police have a special portal into Ring. They can request video from community residents who are using the app. This may not seem too troubling as it relies on voluntary interactions. However, if the owners don't turn over the footage, police can go to the company directly without seeking a warrant or showing probable cause.
For many people in Virginia, the prospect of a wrongful conviction is very frightening, even if the possibilities seem remote. DNA evidence has confirmed that a number of people convicted of serious crimes like murder and rape actually spent decades behind bars for crimes that they did not commit. In many cases, wrongful conviction cases do not indicate mere mistakes or tragedies that take years of people's lives away. Instead, misconduct or abuse by police and prosecutors are often a major part of these cases. Witnesses may be coerced or badgered into providing inaccurate testimony and evidence may even be planted in some cases.
Many criminal convictions and charges are heavily based on eyewitness testimony, even though it is known to be often inaccurate or unreliable. While people may be heavily affected by their experience of a crime, memory can be tricky, especially when people feel pressure to provide important information. In many cases, witnesses of a Virginia crime are asked to view a set of photos or a live lineup of people in order to see if they can identify the perpetrator. This photo lineup may take place some time after the initial incident.