Statistics make it very clear that wrongful convictions happen. It’s an unfortunate reality of the justice system. In some cases, this happens because eyewitnesses make an inaccurate testimony. In other cases, there are even false confessions.
This has become more clear in the last 30+ years, as DNA evidence has been introduced. This is a strong type of evidence, when considering exonerations because DNA can be individually linked to each person. It’s much more accurate than something like eyewitness testimony or even a photograph. Below are some important facts about these exonerations.
it happens more often than people realize
For one thing, there have been 375 exonerations based on DNA in the United States. There have been even more worldwide. The total number of years served for these wrongful convictions – in the U.S. alone – is 5,284.
People often serve for a long time
Even those who are eventually exonerated tend to spend a long time behind bars before they are released. The average number of years is 14. The average age that a person is when they are finally exonerated is 43.
Most cases involve eyewitness misidentification
By far, the biggest issue is that eyewitnesses have made mistakes and inaccurately identified individuals. Eyewitness errors have been cited in 69% of these exonerations. In the majority of these cases – 52% – photos were used when the misidentification took place. In 34% of the cases, an in-person lineup was used. Either way, eyewitnesses are going to get it wrong.
What does this mean for those who have been accused of crimes? It just underscores why it’s so important for them to understand all the legal options at their disposal.