Posts Tagged ‘The National Registry of Exonerations’

Reasons for Exoneration: Perjury or False Accusation

Victoria Inzana — October 20, 2017 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Most people believe that the only reason innocent individuals are exonerated is due to new DNA evidence being revealed in their case. This blog series, Reasons for Exoneration, is intended to highlight the work that the Innocence Project accomplishes on cases that do not focus solely on DNA evidence.

This post is intended to focus on the role of perjury or false accusations in an exoneree’s trial. Perjury is known as the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. False accusations are when someone knowingly makes a charge of wrongdoing against another person. These perjury claims are usually proven based on a discrepancy between an initial deposition of a witness and their testimony on the stand. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 73 total exonerations in the year 2016 where perjury played a heavy role in the exoneration.

An example of a case occurred in Miami-Dade County. The defendant, Derrick Robinson had fit the description of a murderer, and so was arrested. During trial, there was an eyewitness who declared that Robinson was the killer. Robinson, who had claimed his innocence until trial had pled guilty to second-degree murder in 1989. After his conviction, another eye-witness came forward and identified a different man as the perpetrator. He revealed the actual perpetrator had threatened his family which leads to his false eye-witness report. After this new information was revealed, Robinson was exonerated in 1991.

If the testimony of the witness who had committed perjury or made a false accusation was an extremely large contribution to the initial conviction of our exonerate, and if it is possible for the representative of the Innocence Project to prove that perjury or a false accusation has happened, it is essential to an exoneree’s case.

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A new graph from the National Registry of Exonerations: Exonerations by year of conviction

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 18, 2015 @ 4:36 PM — Comments (1)

The website for the National Registry of Exonerations is a treasure trove of information for those who are interested in wrongful convictions and exonerations. The Registry keeps track of exonerations dating back from 1989, and includes details about the cases. The website also displays their extensive information on U.S. exonerations in charts, graphs, and infographics. Recently, the Registry updated their page to include a line graph that presents the numbers of exonerations per year of conviction. In other words, the graph answers the question: How many people who were convicted in any given year were ultimately exonerated?

This graph gives us a new way to think about exonerations and wrongful convictions. We can see how wrongful conviction rates for certain crimes have decreased over time. For example, as DNA testing becomes more advanced, widespread, and fast-paced, less and less people are being wrongfully convicted for rape and other crimes for which DNA evidence is available. The graph shows this; since the late 80s and early 90s, when pretrial DNA testing became more common, there have been less convictions that have resulted in exonerations, implying that the accuracy of sexual assault and rape convictions has improved.

Further, if we compare the conviction year line graph to the line graph that presents the numbers of exonerations by year, we can see how different types of wrongly accused defendants are exonerated at different rates. Current rates for murder exonerations are relatively high, while rates of wrongful convictions for murder in recent years are low. This does not mean that murder convictions in recent years are more accurate; rather, it means that it takes many years for a murder conviction to get overturned compared to other types of crimes. A man who was falsely convicted for murder may spend nearly 40 years incarcerated before being exonerated (See Ricky Jackson, who was wrongly incarcerated for 39 years).

On the other hand, a person who was falsely convicted for another type of crime may be exonerated within the year, or even within a few days, as seen in the case of Alexandra Mendez. We can see that nearly all of the exonerations for convictions in recent years are for crimes under the category of “other”, which is made up for crimes like drug use or attempted murder. This is not to say that all people wrongfully convicted for drug crimes are quickly exonerated, however. Try filtering the Registry of Exonerations by “Crime: Drug Possession or Sale” to see how the time spent wrongly incarcerated for drug crimes can vary. It is just more likely that a wrongful drug case conviction will be quickly resolved than a murder case will; murder has a victim, and the victim’s family may desire finality and closure, which an overturned conviction can disrupt.

Resources like the National Registry of Exonerations are extremely useful to the mission of the Innocence Project of Florida. By providing the public with these graphs and statistics, the problem of wrongful convictions becomes less hidden. The public can begin to understand what helps speed up the exoneration process (for example, DNA testing), or why an innocent person may have a hard time being exonerated (for example, because murder charges are hard to fight).  The more educated the public becomes about wrongful convictions, the more people we have on our side in our fight against them.

This blog has been inspired by National Registry of Exonerations May Newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive their newsletters.

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