How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby Numbers » Tue May 12, 2015 9:57 pm

Statistics on wrongful convictions in the US.

From the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of The University of Michigan Law School.

Some statistics for contributing factor, for the US, from 1989 to March 12, 2015, for homicide cases in which there was an exoneration:

Perjury or false accusation: 477/708 cases = 67%
Official misconduct: 423/708 cases = 60%
Mistaken witness ID: 168/708 cases = 24%
False or misleading forensics: 159/708 = 22%
False confession: 149/708 cases = 21%

For some cases, there was more than one contributing factor, so totals add up to more than 100%.

Official misconduct is higher for homicide cases than for other types of cases in the National Registry of Exonerations; the overall rate was:

Official misconduct: 727/1597 cases = 46%

See the site referenced for further information. The site classifies crimes into four categories: homicides, sexual assaults, child sex abuse, and other crimes.

Source: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... rime.aspx#


Several pieces of information not readily available, to my knowledge, would be useful. These are:

1. The total number of convictions in the US for the period covered by the National Registry - that is, 1989 to the present - for each of the crime categories they use (homicide, sexual assault, child sex abuse, other crime), so that the rate of wrongful convictions per sentencing year could be found.

2. The trends over time in numbers of cases with exonerations compared to those without - that is, has the frequency of wrongful convictions changed over time - for the several categories; and

3. Whether there have been changes in the duration of incarceration for the exonerated (wrongfully convicted) over time. That is, are the wrongful convictions being recognized and corrected sooner now than previously, or not.
Expert witness testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods. {Paraphrase of Fed. Rules of Evidence 702c}
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby Numbers » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:33 pm

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/jai ... 15-n510196

Also see the 2015 report of the National Registry of Exonerations, a PDF with link at:

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... about.aspx
Expert witness testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods. {Paraphrase of Fed. Rules of Evidence 702c}
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby erasmus44 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:48 am

Stanford Law School did a study limited to death penalty cases and I believe that they got a 4-5% wrongful conviction rate.
You have to be very careful with large aggregate statistics because the overwhelming majority of criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas.
In addition, there are likely to be many, many wrongfully convicted defendants who have not been exonerated - the recent surge in exonerations is due to DNA evidence and there are many cases where demands for DNA testing are pending or where there are wrongful convictions but no DNA evidence.
That is why isolating death penalty cases may make sense. There are probably no guilty pleas. The cases tend to be examined closely.
The wrongful conviction rate (among cases actually going to trial) may be higher for other crimes. In death penalty cases, there may be a tendency to give the defense more resources. I also suspect that in cases of doubt there is often a "compromise verdict" and a lesser penalty so that the death penalty cases are those concerning which the system determined there was no doubt. The wrongful conviction rate among these cases is very alarming.
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby Numbers » Mon Jun 20, 2016 6:56 am

The National Registry of Exonerations has a new graphic figure that concisely provides statistical details of known US exonerations since 1989.

The data presented should not be taken as the actual number of wrongful convictions during that period; some of the convictions may have occurred prior to 1989, and many cases of alleged wrongful conviction were not resolved during the period reported. The variations between states may in some cases represent a relative lack of alleged wrongful convictions, but in other cases the failure of the state judicial system to fairly and timely address alleged wrongful convictions.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... s-Map.aspx
Expert witness testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods. {Paraphrase of Fed. Rules of Evidence 702c}
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby erasmus44 » Mon Jun 20, 2016 8:23 am

Numbers wrote:The National Registry of Exonerations has a new graphic figure that concisely provides statistical details of known US exonerations since 1989.

The data presented should not be taken as the actual number of wrongful convictions during that period; some of the convictions may have occurred prior to 1989, and many cases of alleged wrongful conviction were not resolved during the period reported. The variations between states may in some cases represent a relative lack of alleged wrongful convictions, but in other cases the failure of the state judicial system to fairly and timely address alleged wrongful convictions.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... s-Map.aspx



This trend is interesting in light of the fact that - starting in the mid-90's due to legislation supported by the Clinton administration - it became much, much harder to obtain relief for a wrongful conviction using the federal Habeas Corpus remedy. It is really amazing that - despite this change in the law - the number of exonerations has grown so much.
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby Numbers » Tue Jun 21, 2016 4:39 am

erasmus44 wrote:
Numbers wrote:The National Registry of Exonerations has a new graphic figure that concisely provides statistical details of known US exonerations since 1989.

The data presented should not be taken as the actual number of wrongful convictions during that period; some of the convictions may have occurred prior to 1989, and many cases of alleged wrongful conviction were not resolved during the period reported. The variations between states may in some cases represent a relative lack of alleged wrongful convictions, but in other cases the failure of the state judicial system to fairly and timely address alleged wrongful convictions.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... s-Map.aspx



This trend is interesting in light of the fact that - starting in the mid-90's due to legislation supported by the Clinton administration - it became much, much harder to obtain relief for a wrongful conviction using the federal Habeas Corpus remedy. It is really amazing that - despite this change in the law - the number of exonerations has grown so much.


The data gathered by the National Registry of Exonerations doesn't include the number of allegations of wrongful conviction in each state. I don't know if the number of such allegations is available. Therefore, it is difficult or impossible to know whether the number of exonerations reported represents an increase in the rate of such allegations being successfully addressed in favor of the wrongfully convicted or a low rate of successful exonerations with an increase in the number of wrongful convictions coming to the attention of the post-conviction process. However, some of the exonerations in Texas and New York may be attributed to Conviction Integrity Units set up to respond to known wrongful conviction issues in specific jurisdictions.
Expert witness testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods. {Paraphrase of Fed. Rules of Evidence 702c}
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby erasmus44 » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:24 am

Numbers wrote:
erasmus44 wrote:
Numbers wrote:The National Registry of Exonerations has a new graphic figure that concisely provides statistical details of known US exonerations since 1989.

The data presented should not be taken as the actual number of wrongful convictions during that period; some of the convictions may have occurred prior to 1989, and many cases of alleged wrongful conviction were not resolved during the period reported. The variations between states may in some cases represent a relative lack of alleged wrongful convictions, but in other cases the failure of the state judicial system to fairly and timely address alleged wrongful convictions.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... s-Map.aspx



This trend is interesting in light of the fact that - starting in the mid-90's due to legislation supported by the Clinton administration - it became much, much harder to obtain relief for a wrongful conviction using the federal Habeas Corpus remedy. It is really amazing that - despite this change in the law - the number of exonerations has grown so much.


The data gathered by the National Registry of Exonerations doesn't include the number of allegations of wrongful conviction in each state. I don't know if the number of such allegations is available. Therefore, it is difficult or impossible to know whether the number of exonerations reported represents an increase in the rate of such allegations being successfully addressed in favor of the wrongfully convicted or a low rate of successful exonerations with an increase in the number of wrongful convictions coming to the attention of the post-conviction process. However, some of the exonerations in Texas and New York may be attributed to Conviction Integrity Units set up to respond to known wrongful conviction issues in specific jurisdictions.


It would be really hard to work off statistics on allegations because many, many prisoners allege that they don't belong in prison and - when I was involved in screening cases - there were huge numbers of handwritten habeas petitions being filed by prisoners in the court system. I think that the big factor at work increasing the number of exonerations is DNA research which allows us to reach a high level of certainty that a given conviction was "wrongful". In our system, a convicted felon must virtually prove beyond any doubt that he was wrongfully convicted and, before DNA, it was very hard to do so.
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Re: How Common are Wrongful Convictions?

Postby Numbers » Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:34 am

erasmus44 wrote:
Numbers wrote:
erasmus44 wrote:
Numbers wrote:The National Registry of Exonerations has a new graphic figure that concisely provides statistical details of known US exonerations since 1989.

The data presented should not be taken as the actual number of wrongful convictions during that period; some of the convictions may have occurred prior to 1989, and many cases of alleged wrongful conviction were not resolved during the period reported. The variations between states may in some cases represent a relative lack of alleged wrongful convictions, but in other cases the failure of the state judicial system to fairly and timely address alleged wrongful convictions.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoner ... s-Map.aspx



This trend is interesting in light of the fact that - starting in the mid-90's due to legislation supported by the Clinton administration - it became much, much harder to obtain relief for a wrongful conviction using the federal Habeas Corpus remedy. It is really amazing that - despite this change in the law - the number of exonerations has grown so much.


The data gathered by the National Registry of Exonerations doesn't include the number of allegations of wrongful conviction in each state. I don't know if the number of such allegations is available. Therefore, it is difficult or impossible to know whether the number of exonerations reported represents an increase in the rate of such allegations being successfully addressed in favor of the wrongfully convicted or a low rate of successful exonerations with an increase in the number of wrongful convictions coming to the attention of the post-conviction process. However, some of the exonerations in Texas and New York may be attributed to Conviction Integrity Units set up to respond to known wrongful conviction issues in specific jurisdictions.


It would be really hard to work off statistics on allegations because many, many prisoners allege that they don't belong in prison and - when I was involved in screening cases - there were huge numbers of handwritten habeas petitions being filed by prisoners in the court system. I think that the big factor at work increasing the number of exonerations is DNA research which allows us to reach a high level of certainty that a given conviction was "wrongful". In our system, a convicted felon must virtually prove beyond any doubt that he was wrongfully convicted and, before DNA, it was very hard to do so.


I didn't make my point regarding the number of alleged wrongful convictions clear.

The point I am seeking to bring out is that a jurisdiction - which in the US is typically at first instance a county or a city police department, prosecution office, and court system which respectively brings and tries cases under state law - may have a relatively large number of exonerations - proven wrongful convictions - because it may be diligent in correcting miscarriages of justice, or because there are a large number of miscarriages of justice, or some combination of the two. On the other hand, the jurisdiction may have a small number of exonerations because it has very few miscarriages of justice or it does not correct those which do occur. And in comparing jurisdictions, or the sum total of the jurisdictions in a state, one must take into account the variations in populations and crime rates of the jurisdictions and the state.

A first approach to quantify for the purposes of comparison would be, I suggest, to calculate the rates of exonerations for a particular crime (murder, for example), where the rates would be 1) number of exonerations divided by the number of alleged wrongful convictions, 2) number of exonerations divided by the total number of convictions, and 3) number of alleged wrongful convictions divided by the total number of convictions; each for a specified period of time (for example, one year or five years). A more sophisticated and no doubt very difficult approach would include identifying the number of the alleged wrongful convictions that were, by some definition, credible allegations, for use in the comparisons.
Expert witness testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods. {Paraphrase of Fed. Rules of Evidence 702c}
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