The National Registry of Exonerations recently released a new annual report detailing the number of wrongful convictions in 2018 as well as a startling new number. According to the report, wrongfully or falsely convicted U.S. prisoners have served a combined 20,000 years behind bars. Per person, the report states that this averages out to about nine years in jail per prisoner before receiving an exoneration.
In just 2018, the report tracks that those wrongfully convicted lost more than 1,600 years behind bars. Altogether, 151 people were exonerated in just 2018. The report dives deeper into these startling numbers to determine the factors that led to this record-setting year.
What contributes to wrongful convictions?
According to the Oregon Innocence Project, several factors contribute to wrongful convictions every year. These factors can include:
- Erroneous eyewitness identification. Whether due to cues from officials, stress or human error, eyewitnesses can identify the wrong person in a lineup.
- Improper forensic evidence. Forensic science can lead to errors due to unreliable methods, misleading results, fraudulent or erroneous results and more.
- False confessions. False confessions can occur due to a misunderstanding with officials, a misleading statement made under duress and more.
- Official misconduct. Whether due to corrupt police officers, prosecutors or more, an abuse of power can lead to wrongful convictions and harsh sentences.
The National Registry of Exonerations reported that in just 2018 alone, official misconduct led to 107 exonerations. Official misconduct played a notable role in homicide cases, contributing to 80% of 2018’s 54 homicide cases that resulted in exoneration.
Wrongful convictions across Oregon
While the report lists Illinois, New York and Texas as the states with the most exonerations in 2018, Oregon is not exempt from wrongful or false convictions. While Oregon exonerated two wrongfully convicted prisoners in 2018, from 1989 to 2018, the state exonerated 19 individuals. Common falsely convicted crimes include violent crimes, like murder or manslaughter, and drug possession or sale. Eight of these wrongfully convicted individuals faced a life sentence.
Many place their hopes in the criminal justice system after being falsely accused or charged with a crime. While the number of wrongfully convicted prisoners across the country may be alarming, there is hope in that 2018 marked the most exonerations on record.