INNOCENCE: Leading Researchers Release Report and National Registry of Exonerations in U.S.

On May 21, the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University announced the start of the first National Registry of Exonerations and released an extensive report discussing the problem of wrongful convictions in the U.S.  The Registry contains information on nearly 900 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes, including many who were sentenced to death, and who have been exonerated since 1989.  It is by far the largest collection of such cases and will be updated on an ongoing basis.  The authors believe that many more such cases exist, including over 1,000 cases from "group exonerations" involving official misconduct that are discussed in the report.  The report accompanying the registry, Exonerations in the United States, 1989−2012, was written principally by Professor Samuel Gross (pictured) of Michigan's Law School.  It discusses the most common errors that led to these miscarriages of justice. 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.” Prof. Gross 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.”

The report notes that about 37% of exonerations occurred with the help of DNA evidence.  The average time of imprisonment before exoneration was 11 years.  About 62% of those exonerated were members of minorities. 

(S. Gross & M. Shaffer, "Exonerations in the United States, 1989–2012," Univ. of Michigan Law School, May 21, 2012; "Study: 2,000 convicted then exonerated in 23 years," Associated Press, May 21, 2012.).  Read the Press Release on the National Registry of Exonerations.  See Innocence for DPIC's page on death row exonerations.