The subject of wrongful convictions seems to be on most people’s radars. With the runaway popularity of documentaries such as Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” there has been a surge of interest in exonerations and the justice system. While no judicial system is perfect, there is certainly something to be said for the rate of overturned convictions.
Increases in the Rate of Exonerations is an Annual Trend in the United States
A study by the National Registry of Exonerations released on February 2, 2016, found that 2015 was a record year of exonerations. At the time of this article, a total of 149 exonerations in 29 states, the District of Columbia, federal courts and Guam were reported last year, which as the National Registry of Exonerations notes, is a trend as the “rate of exonerations has been increasing rapidly for several years.” On average, the exonerated defendants served more than 14 years in prison.
The report goes on to state that, since 2011, “the annual number of exonerations has more than doubled. We now average nearly three exonerations a week.” In 2014 there were 139 exonerations reported.
The National Registry of Exonerations was founded in 2012 as a project of the University of Michigan Law School in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwester University School of Law.
Wrongful Convictions Found Across a Wide Array of Criminal Charges
The results of the report also found that there was a surprising amount of homicide convictions that were overturned as well as a wide array of reasons for the exonerations. These include:
- Homicides – 58 defendants exonerations (54 for murder and 4 for manslaughter)
- Drug Cases – 47 defendants were exoneration of drug possession, 42 of which had pled guilty
- False Confessions – 27 defendants were exonerated for convictions based on false confessions, mostly from defendants under the age of 18, mentally handicapped or both
- Official Misconduct – 67 exonerations were granted based on official misconduct, three-quarters of them were homicide cases
- Guilty Pleas – 65 defendants were exonerated for convictions based on guilty pleas
- No-Crime Cases – 75 exonerations were granted in which no crime actually occurred
If you believe you have been wrongfully convicted, you may be entitled to ask for a new trial. An experienced post-conviction relief attorney like Russell Spatz can help you understand your rights and navigate a complicated legal process.
The National Registry of Exonerations – EXONERATIONS IN 2015. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Exonerations_in_2015.pdf