African-Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites, study finds
African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the US population, but account for 47 percent of the almost 2,000 exonerations listed in the registry as of October 2016.
Once considered unusual, exonerations are now fairly commonplace, with a record number of exonerees in 2016 - more than three a week - according to a report released today. Blacks are more frequently "stopped, searched, arrested and convicted ― including in cases in which they are innocent", researchers write.
Researchers found that a major cause of this disparity was mistaken identification by white victims. Founded in 2012, the registry has tracked exonerations since 1989, with the goal of criminal justice reform that eliminates conviction errors.Last year, there were no death row exonerations, the most common exoneree.Pennsylvania saw just five exonerations in 2016, none in Berks County.As of October, 1,900 men and women in the USA have been exonerated since 1989, according to the registry.
Researchers also learned that victims of sexual assault were more likely to misidentify their assailants in cases where the defendant was black. But because efforts to exonerate innocent people are focused on convictions where the stakes are higher, such as rape or murder, many innocent defendants convicted of low-level drug crimes are never exonerated.
"In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white", Gross said, as quoted by Reuters. "Nonetheless, African Americans are about five times as likely to go to prison for drug possession as whites - and judging from exonerations, innocent black people are about 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent white people".
According to the report, African Americans convicted of murder "are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers", and that such wrongful convictions, even when later corrected, expands the impact of violence on African American communities.
Black people are seven times more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted of murder, and cases where black people were exoneratedwere 22 percent more likely to involve police misconduct than cases involving white people. More than half of them, 28, were black.
"I think the big takeaway for us is that every case of wrongful conviction has to be seriously considered because it shapes the public's trust in our system", Ogg said. Reminder: Despite what some people believe, stats show that blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate. So the truth is being rooted out more often, but only for a fraction of the wrongful convictions that have occurred.
The primary reason for the drug crime disparity is that police enforce drug laws more vigorously against the black community, according to the report.
"In some cases, you see some type of explicit racism", said Samuel Gross, a law professor at University of MI and a senior editor of the report. It was the third consecutive year with a record number of exonerations.
"There's no doubt anymore that innocent people get convicted regularly-that's beyond dispute", said Barbara O'Brien, a Michigan State University law professor and editor for the registry, in a press release. A study published three years ago in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that, conservatively, about 4% of people on death rows were likely wrongfully convicted. Others were younger than 18 when they were convicted, or had intellectual disabilities. Increasingly, police, prosecutors and judges recognize this problem.
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