Aggressive Advocates For Your Rights

Report: Official misconduct occurred in most of 2017 exonerations

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, at least 139 people were exonerated in 2017. These innocent people spent an average of 10.6 years behind bars before their wrongful convictions were overturned. Why are there so many and what do we know about these wrongful convictions?

One reason there are so many exonerations is that there are dedicated groups investigating questionable convictions and challenging them. These professional exonerators include about 52 organizations like the Innocence Project. They also include conviction integrity units at prosecutors' offices, which is a growing trend. According to the Registry, there are now about 33 such units tasked with reviewing the work of other prosecutors.

For example, the conviction integrity unit in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, has been busily finding wrongful convictions for drug possession in recent years. Working through a backlog of complaints, they exonerated over 40 people in 2015 and nearly 50 more in 2016. Last year, the number began to wind down and they exonerated only 10. That's around 100 people in just three years.

Police and prosecutorial misconduct is a serious, ongoing problem

Of those 139 people who were exonerated last year, 84 had been wrongfully convicted due to official misconduct. That's more than 60 percent.

According to the Registry, the misconduct included activities like witness tampering by police, lab results falsified by analysts, and the withholding of key defense evidence by prosecutors. (Prosecutors are constitutionally required to hand over all evidence to the defense that tends to show the defendant may not be guilty.)

66 cases involved no underlying crime

One particularly tragic group of exonerees includes those who were convicted even though there was no actual underlying crime. For example, Rodricus Crawford had been convicted of murder in the death of his infant son. The evidence now shows that the child more likely died of sepsis, a serious medical condition. There was no murder.

This category included a total of nine people falsely convicted of murder, 11 falsely convicted of child sex abuse, and more than a dozen falsely convicted of drug possession.

If you or a loved one has been falsely incarcerated, a lawyer may be able to help you. At Weisberg Law, we assist people who are wrongfully imprisoned due to due process violations, equal protection violations, malicious prosecution, First Amendment violations (such as being arrested for protesting) and other legal issues.

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