Now that it’s almost April, 2014 may be starting to seem like a distant memory. And while 2015 is quickly shaping up to be a successful year for exonerating innocent prisoners, we should still take a second to review some of the successes that we had in 2014. The National Registry of Exonerations published an informative infographic detailing some ways in which 2014 was a record-breaking year for exonerations.
First of all, the 127 exonerations that took place in 2014 marked the highest number of annual exonerations out of all the years recorded in the Registry – from 1989 onwards. That means that out of 26 years of exonerations, 2014 was the most successful. The year that came closest to 2014 was 2012, in which 92 people were exonerated.
Besides the high number of exonerations overall, 2014 saw many other noteworthy improvements and successes in the exoneration process. For example, Alexandra Mendez was exonerated on August 22, 2014, only 3 days after her conviction—the fastest exoneration ever. She had been convicted for possession of cocaine, but lab tests of the material revealed it was not in fact a controlled substance, and her conviction was quickly overturned.
Another staggering figure is the number of non-DNA exonerations that occurred last year – 103! That’s more than the total number of exonerations in any other year. A report from the Registry in 2013 revealed that non-DNA exonerations are beginning to overtake DNA exonerations, as biological evidence is more and more frequently being tested before trial, rather than being used to prove innocence post-conviction. This is good news both for those innocent defendants who get cleared by DNA before they’re ever convicted, and for innocent inmates with no DNA evidence, whom can now take advantage of some of the exoneration resources no longer being used by DNA cases.
2014 was also important in the cooperation shown from law enforcement in exonerations. 67 exonerations, or 54% of all exonerations in 2014, were done with cooperation from law enforcement. 2012 was the first year in which law enforcement cooperated in more than 50% of the year’s exonerations, and the trend seems to be continuing. The support of the police in the fight for justice for the wrongfully convicted is a powerful tool, and we are extremely thankful to officers who support this important cause.
For more information on the successes of 2014, you can read the National Registry of Exonerations’ full report of 2014 exonerations. And if you want to show your thanks to a law enforcement officer who supports the cause of keeping innocent people out of prison, consider attending our 4th Annual Spring Gala, Steppin’ Out, where we’ll be honoring Former Police Chief and Secretary of Corrections and Past President of the International Association of Police Chiefs, Walter McNeil for the non-traditional collaborations he has formed with the innocence community to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future wrongful convictions.