The University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University have compiled a list of people who have been wrongly convicted of a serious crime in the United States. Several reasons have been given, but the disturbing reality is that in just over 20 years, 2,000 people have been sentenced to prison for a crime they did not commit.
The list of people who have been released from prison for a wrongful conviction has been compiled as the National Registry of Exonerations. It is the largest database of such information and provides a surprising insight into the reasons for why so many innocent people have been sentenced to prison.
The registry includes only those who have been released since DNA testing was commonly used. Therefore, many of the reasons for these mistakes have less to do with technological advancements and more to do with human error.
For instance, in many situations, a person had confessed to a crime they did not commit. Often, people under investigation and after prolonged questioning by police end up confessing to the crime. This is quite worrisome since it could mean that people may not understand their right to speak with an attorney before speaking with police.
Other reasons that people have been released from a wrongful sentence include recanted victim statements, witnesses who lied and even police corruption. Sponsors of the registry hope that the availability of this information will shine a light on how serious the situation has been and how future mistaken convictions can be avoided.
As mentioned, a person who is charged with a serious felony or misdemeanor will likely benefit from speaking with an attorney. Having legal support may decrease a person's chance of being wrongfully convicted of a crime.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Registry tallies over 2,000 wrongful convictions since 1989," David G. Savage, May 20, 2012