New Registry and Report: Over 2,000 Wrongful Convictions in 23 Years

Today, the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University announced the launch of the first National Registry of Exonerations and released a report that reveals that more than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989.

This new registry is the most complete database of exonerations ever compiled and will be updated on an ongoing basis. It contains detailed information on nearly 900 exonerations. More than 1,000 additional cases are “group exonerations” that occurred in response to various police corruption scandals, most of which involved massive planting of drugs and guns on innocent defendants. These group exonerations are described in the report, but not included in the registry. The registry contains cases that were found from court documents and also includes cases identified by advocates for the wrongfully convicted, like the The Innocence Project.

According to an AP article, the leading reasons for the wrongful convictions that are included in the registry were perjury, faulty eyewitness identification and prosecutorial misconduct. The researchers found that  the exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years behind bars, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of the exonerated studied are men, and half are African-American.

Rob Warden, Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said, “The National Registry of Exonerations gives an unprecedented view of the scope of the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States. This is a good start–a milestone–but there’s a long way to go before we have a complete picture of wrongful convictions in the United States.” He added, “The more we learn about false convictions, the better we’ll be at preventing them – or if that fails, at finding and correcting them as best we can after the fact.”

(Photo: Collage of some of the exonerees included in the new Registry. Courtesy of Maurice Possley)

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