African-Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites, study finds
The study also said black Americans were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white Americans.
African-American prisoners who were convicted of murder are about 50 percent more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers and spend longer in prison before exoneration, according to a report released today that's co-edited by a Michigan State University College of Law professor. This disparity cuts across all major crimes committed, but the report focuses on the three categories where exonerations are most frequent: murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.
The report on race analyzed exonerations for murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes since 1989. Part of that disparity is tied to the race of the victim.
A second registry report released Tuesday, "Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States", found that while African-Americans account for 13 percent of the USA population, they constitute 47 percent of all exonerations nationally from 1989 until last October.
"Exonerations in 2016" found a record number of exonerations for the third straight year and a record number of cases with official misconduct.
Among last year's most notable exonerations were the so-called San Antonio Four - four women convicted of sexual assault in the 1990s and sent to prison because of junk science, tainted testimony and false ideas of lesbian behavior, a Texas appeals court said. Researchers have no direct measure of the number of all convictions of innocent murder defendants, but researchers' best estimate suggests that they outnumber those they know about many times over. That racial dynamic was in play in half of all sexual assault cases that led to wrongful convictions but occurred in only 11 percent of all sexual assault cases in the U.S. "Of the many costs that the War on Drugs inflicts on the black community, the practice of deliberately charging innocent defendants with fabricated crimes may be the most shameful".
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That's the takeaway from a study for the National Registry of Exonerations, published on Tuesday. "It appears that innocent black sexual assault defendants receive harsher sentences than whites if they are convicted, and then face greater resistance to exoneration even in cases in which they are ultimately released".
Although the rate of drug use by white and black Americans is similar, black people are five times as likely to go to prison for drug crimes than their white counterparts.
And when the supposed drugs they possessed were tested, in many cases no illegal drugs were found.
"We know about almost 1,700 cases in group exonerations that are mostly drug crime frame ups", said Samuel Gross, the author of the report.
"Why are African-Americans so overrepresented when it comes to people who are falsely arrested for drug possession?" Exonerations provide a window into the scope."About 40 percent of the exonerations a year ago were the result of official misconducted, according to the annual report by the National Registry of Exonerations". That's because its crime labs take an added precaution most others don't: testing the materials seized from drug defendants even after they enter guilty pleas. So far they've identified 43 defendants affected. The year before, Alabama had one exoneration, the group reported.
"Increasingly, police, prosecutors and judges recognize this problem", O'Brien noted in the press release.
There now are about 2,900 people on death rows around the country, of whom; under that formula, about 120 are likely to have been wrongfully convicted.
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