Friday, February 5, 2010

Too many wrongful convictions!

The 250th person exonerated after a wrongful conviction. It does make one wonder how many other innocent people are still sitting in prison?

250th person exonerated through DNA evidence.

Today, Innocence Project’s client Freddie Peacock became the 250th person exonerated through DNA evidence in the United States of America. Peacock was convicted in New York in 1976 of a rape he didn’t commit based on an eyewitness misidentification and a false confession that police claimed he made during an interrogation.

Peacock, who has severe mental illness, was freed in 1982, but continued the fight to clear his name. With the help of the Innocence Project, he obtained DNA testing that proved his innocence and led to today’s exoneration.

His fight to clear his name after release is the longest of any DNA exoneree to date — for 28 years Peacock sought a complete exoneration, even turning down chances to end his parole because he thought staying on parole might improve his access to appeals.

The Innocence Project released a report today, “250 Exonerated: Too Many Wrongfully Convicted,” which details each one of the exoneration cases and includes statistics on common causes of the wrongful convictions.

Among the report’s key findings:

• There have been DNA exonerations in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

• The top three states for DNA exonerations are New York (with 25), Texas (with 40) and Illinois (with 29).

• 76% of the wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification.

• 50% involved unvalidated or improper forensic science.

• 27% relied on a false confession, admission or guilty plea.

• 70% of the 250 people exonerated are people of color (60% are black; nearly 9% are Latino; 29% are white).

These DNA exonerations show us how the criminal justice system is flawed and how it can be fixed,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. “DNA exonerations have helped transform the criminal justice system, leading to reforms in virtually every state, but there is still a great deal of work to do to make our system of justice more fair, accurate and reliable.”

The first DNA exoneration in the United States was in 1989. “We never imagined when we started the Innocence Project in 1992 that so many people around the country would be freed with DNA testing,” Neufeld said. “It’s important to remember that DNA exonerations do not solve the problem – they provide scientific proof of its existence, and they illuminate the need for reform.”