Having recourse to an experienced criminal defense attorney to provide focused and zealous representation following an accusation of wrongdoing or the filing of a criminal charge is the constitutional right of every person in Colorado and across the country. Indeed, it is time-honored cornerstone of the American justice system.

And, for obvious reasons, the right to counsel is a critically important prerogative for every person squaring off against the vast resources of state and/or federal officials.

Here’s one central reason why: a criminal suspect might be innocent.

Indeed, he or she frequently is, as noted in recent media accounts that impart the telling findings of a prominent research study on the exoneration of individuals falsely convicted of crimes.

The tally for 2015, as supplied by the National Registry of Exonerations, is this: 149 people released for crimes that they had nothing to do with. That total comprises a record number of exonerations in any year for which such data was collected.

And that number needs to be put into fuller perspective, given the belief of researchers that it “points to a much larger number of false convictions.”

Indeed, some estimates of the number of innocent people suffering in confinement owing to official misconduct, pressured plea agreements, flawed evidence, tainted eyewitness testimony and other factors posit many thousands of wrongfully locked-up individuals across the country. The national Innocence Project, for example, points to as many as 20,000 wrongfully confined inmates in the nation’s jails and prisons.

That is truly food for thought for any person carefully reflecting on the U.S. criminal justice system.

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