A new study indicates that a shocking 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes in the United States over the past 23 years have since been exonerated. Since there is no official record-keeping measure for exoneration of convicted criminals, academics from the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions …
A new study indicates that a shocking 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes in the United States over the past 23 years have since been exonerated. Since there is no official record-keeping measure for exoneration of convicted criminals, academics from the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law recently compiled information to create a new national registry. Named the “National Registry of Exonerations,” the database begins at the start of 1989 and provides an unprecedented view of the scope of the issue of wrongful convictions in the United States.
False Accusations Lead to Wrongful Convictions
The database collected and analyzed by researchers contains information regarding 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence, and nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data. According to researchers, those 873 exonerated defendants spent a total of 10,000 years in prison combined, averaging more than 11 years each. Nearly half of these exonerations were homicide cases, 101 of which involved death sentences, and more than 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.
Unfortunately, the registry is less than comprehensive. “We know there are many more that we haven’t found,” said University of Michigan law professor Samual Gross. The registry excludes at least 1,170 additional defendants whose convictions were thrown out starting in 1995, amid the exposure of 13 major scandals involving police officers around the country. In all of the cases in question, police had fabricated crimes, mostly by planting guns or drugs on innocent defendants. Similarly, in half of the 873 exonerations for which there is significant data, the most common factor leading to a wrongful conviction was false accusation or perjured testimony. Forty-three percent of the cases involved mistaken eyewitness testimony and 24% involved false or misleading forensic evidence.
Criminal Defense Attorneys for Charges in Oklahoma
Seven percent of the exonerations were drug, white-collar and other nonviolent crimes, while 5% were robberies and 5% were other kinds of violent crimes. “It used to be that almost all the exonerations we knew about were murder and rape cases,” said Gross. “We’re finally beginning to see beyond that.” Exonerations often take place out of the public eye, and the 106-page registry reports opens with an explanation why. Even though an exoneration may look like a victory for a criminal defense attorney, “there’s usually someone to blame for the underlying tragedy, often more than one person, and the common culprits include defense lawyers as well as police officers, prosecutors and judges.”
Being convicted of a crime, violent or nonviolent, in Oklahoma comes with serious consequences, often including hefty fines, community service and jail time. Too often, as this unprecedented report indicates, defendants in the United States are falsely convicted for crimes they did not commit, only to be exonerated after spending years of their lives in jail. If they are less lucky, they serve out their entire sentence or even face the death penalty. If you are facing criminal charges in Oklahoma, it should be your number one priority to enlist the help of an experienced Oklahoma criminal defense attorney. At Oklahoma Legal Center, our criminal defense attorneys can help individuals faced with criminal charges build a strong defense and possibly even have their charges reduced or dropped altogether.