National Registry Finds Over 2,000 Wrongful Convictions Since 1989

A new national crime registry has concluded that more than 2,000 people have been wrongfully committed of serious crimes since 1989.

Sponsors of the registry hope to use it to uncover more details about why the legal system continues to fail and convict the innocent.

The new National Registry of Exonerations, compiled by University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University, is the largest of its kind. The registry covers information dating from the beginning of DNA use to the results of present-day court sentencing. Criminal law experts cite police corruption, faulty eyewitness testimonies, lying witnesses, and witnesses who recant among the most common reasons for wrongful convictions.

Under persistent and prolonged questioning by investigators, innocent suspects have pleaded guilty to heinous crimes including rape that they actually didn’t commit.

Although figures are constantly changing, Illinois has the most exonerations listed in the new registry. Among counties, Cook County of Chicago led the way, followed by cities Dallas and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the statistics compiled by the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University do not permit strong comparisons across counties or states.

Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor who was one of the registry’s creators, said such registries are crucial because “the more we learn about false convictions, the better we’ll be at preventing them.”

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