Now, perhaps more than ever before, Americans are taking a hard look at our criminal justice system and realizing that it is broken. Wrongful convictions are far more common than most people thought they could be, and the causes of wrongful convictions are not simply honest mistakes. Much of the time, they are the product of lazy police work, prosecutorial misconduct and coercive tactics used on defendants who cannot advocate for themselves.
Earlier this month, The National Registry of Exonerations released its annual report. The statistics pertaining to 2015 are a mere snapshot, but one that shows just how big of a problem wrongful convictions are.
According to the 2015 exoneration statistics:
- At least 149 people were exonerated nationwide, which is a new record
- An average of three people are exonerated per week
- In half of the cases exonerated in 2015, no crime had actually been committed
- 27 defendants were convicted due to giving false confessions - many of these defendants were minors, cognitively disabled or both
- In 65 cases, there was evidence of police or prosecutor misconduct
- The average length of wrongful incarceration for these exonerees was 14.5 years
- More than two-thirds of the 58 defendants exonerated in homicide cases were minorities
- Since The National Registry of Exonerations began keeping records in 1989, some 1,733 wrongfully convicted individuals have been exonerated
Sadly, too many people are railroaded by the criminal justice system because they don't understand their rights and/or don't have a strong legal advocate on their side. If you ever find yourself facing criminal charges, don't assume that the truth will set you free. Please seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.