Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Exonerations in 2013

According the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations (website), “2013 was a record-breaking year for exonerations,” with 87 people found to be innocent of the crimes for which they were sent to prison.

According to the report, on average, these innocent people spent more than 12 years in prison before they were exonerated.

The most astonishing number is that 15 of the 87 exonerations recorded in the registry last year were in cases where the accused had pleaded guilty. This is worth thinking about. Fifteen people confessed to crimes that they did not commit. They went to prison, served time, and were only released many years later when their own confessions were proven to be false.

In the opinion of the authors of the report, the greater number of exonerations demonstrates that the criminal justice system is becoming increasingly willing to consider the possibility that the system sometimes makes mistakes:
The pattern of exonerations in 2013 suggests that we are increasingly willing to consider and act on the types of innocence claims that are often ignored: those without biological evidence or with no actual perpetrator; cases with comparatively light sentences; judgments based on guilty pleas by defendants who accepted plea bargains to avoid the risk of extreme punishment after trial.
The report is interesting throughout, and you can read the whole thing here.

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