Wrongful convictions are a serious miscarriage of justice. Not only do they result in actual offenders remaining free to commit additional crimes, but also the imprisonment of innocent individuals — often for decades.
Unfortunately, New York has some of the highest numbers in the country when it comes to wrongful convictions and subsequent exonerations. In fact, according to The National Registry of Exonerations — a project of the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law and the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine — New York had the third most exonerations in the country in 2016, behind only Texas and Illinois.
Of the 166 individuals listed on The National Registry of Exonerations in 2016, 14 were from New York alone. Even worse, these 14 individuals spent, on average, more than 17 years in prison before they were exonerated, with one individual spending more than five decades behind bars.
Reasons behind wrongful convictions in New York
While a wrongful conviction can occur for a variety of reasons, some of the more common include police/official misconduct, false confessions, faulty witness IDs, false accusations and faulty or misleading forensic evidence. For instance, of the 14 exonerations in New York last year:
- 79 percent involved official misconduct
- 50 percent involved false accusations or perjury
- 29 percent involved mistaken witness IDs
- 21 percent involved false confessions
Since a wrongful conviction can involve multiple issues — such as both official misconduct and a false confession — the numbers listed above add up to more than 100 percent. However, regardless of the underlying reasons for a wrongful conviction, one thing remains clear: innocent individuals should not have to spend time in prison for a crime they did not commit.