2,000 Exonerees Since 1989

Monday, May 21st, 2012

This is a great idea.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.

Nearly half of the 873 exonerations were homicide cases, including 101 death sentences. Over one-third of the cases were sexual assaults.

DNA evidence led to exoneration in nearly one-third of the 416 homicides and in nearly two-thirds of the 305 sexual assaults.

And of course these are merely those who were able to get a court’s attention. I’ve been told by defense attorneys, for example, that there are people in Parchman Penitentiary going back to the 1960s and 1970s for whom there isn’t even any record of a trial. That 2,000 figure also wouldn’t include someone like Cory Maye.

You can peruse the registry here.

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11 Responses to “2,000 Exonerees Since 1989”

  1. #1 |  Dana Gower | 

    According to the USA Today story:

    Of the 416 homicide exonerations, 64 percent were attributed, at least in part, to perjury or false accusation. Official misconduct by either prosecutors or police, including the withholding of evidence favorable to a suspect, was a contributor in 56 percent of the cases.

  2. #2 |  Bob | 

    It makes you wonder just how deep the rabbit hole really goes.

  3. #3 |  Bill | 

    No record of a trial. So that would mean there’s no record of a conviction, either, right…?

  4. #4 |  Marty | 

    I’m amazed that there aren’t crazed, bitter people who’ve been exonerated running around wreaking havoc on politicians and cops.

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    I’d really like to know what our false conviction rates look like compared to other countries. I think Americans see the injustices that our legal systems has done and assume that it can’t be this bad in the rest of the first world. In light of the Amanda Knox case, I’d be interested to see how we stack up against everyone else.

  6. #6 |  Kevin | 

    When I have some spare time (tonight or tomorrow?) I’ll run some more detailed statistics on this registry (e.g., state comparisons, race vs. contributing factor analyses, etc) and post them here (or email them to Balko).

  7. #7 |  croaker | 

    @4 Prison rape is a great tool to use to beat down the innocent into submission. That’s why Obama(lamadingdong)’s executive order will be yet another toothless idea.

  8. #8 |  Jeff Hall | 

    Mississippi clearly needs a SLAPP law.

  9. #9 |  Stephen Littau | 

    Radley, speaking of Cory Maye, do you have any plans to write a follow-up post about how he is doing since he has been out for almost a year?

  10. #10 |  Personanongrata | 

    2,000 Exonerees Since 1989

    What kind of sick and depraved nation allows for the continuing use of capital punishment in light of these facts laying bare the fallibility of the current justice system?

    The United States

    (17 states have banned capital punishments use but 17 isn’t 50)

  11. #11 |  Other Kevin | 

    Kevin –
    You should check out the report that was published with the registry. It does all of that more in-depth statistical analysis.

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