Study Reveals that 60% of All Exonerations in Criminal Cases in 2017 Were Due to "Official Misconduct" by White Prosecutors or Police

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From [HERE] On March 14, 2018 the National Registry of Exonerations released its annual report. It recorded 139 exonerations in 2017. In total, the National Registry of Exonerations has recorded 2,161 exonerations in the United States from 1989 through the end of 2017.  The 139 exonerations that the National Registry of Exonerations added in 2017 were distributed as follows: 


Homicide: Fifty-one defendants were exonerated of homicide—50 for murder and one for manslaughter. 

Sexual Assault: Twenty-nine defendants were exonerated of sex crimes, including 16 for child sexual abuse and 13 for sexual assault on an adult. 

Other Violent Crimes: Eighteen defendants were exonerated of convictions for other violent crimes, such as arson, robbery, and attempted murder. 

Non-Violent Crimes: Forty-one defendants were exonerated of non-violent offenses, such as fraud, theft, and traffic offenses. Sixteen exonerations were for drug offenses 

Characteristics of the Cases

Official Misconduct: We know of official misconduct in 84 exonerations in 2017, a record number. Forty-three of those cases involved homicides—84% of homicide exonerations in 2017. [A recent study found that 95% of all elected state and federal prosecutors are white.] 

Official misconduct encompasses a wide range of behavior—from police officers threatening witnesses, to forensic analysts falsifying test results, to child welfare workers pressuring children to claim sexual abuse where none occurred. But the most common misconduct documented in the cases in the Registry involves police or prosecutors (or both) concealing exculpatory evidence. The proportion of exonerations with official misconduct is the highest among homicide cases—84% (43/51). For example: 

When Ledura Watkins was convicted of the murder of a teacher in Detroit in 1976, the case against him depended on Timothy Herndon, who testified that he was with Watkins when Watkins killed the victim. At trial, the defense and the court knew that Herndon received immunity from prosecution for his role in the murder. Years later, however, Herndon recanted his testimony, and the defense learned for the first time that Herndon had also received favorable treatment from the state in an unrelated robbery case—and that he had made statements to the police that contradicted his sworn testimony. 

Mistaken Eyewitness Identification: A record 37 exonerations in 2017 were for convictions based at least in part on mistaken eyewitness identifications. 

False Confessions: Twenty-nine exonerations involved false confessions, another record. 

Perjury or False Accusation: A record 87 cases included perjury or a false accusation. [MORE]

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