14 April 2008

Wrongful Convictions

My criminal procedure professor from law school has made one of the most comprehensive surveys of data pertinent to estimating wrongful conviction rate ever prepared.

He concludes that wrongful conviction rates for murders and rapes are on the order of 2.3%-5%, and that wrongful conviction rates for other serious felonies are probably somewhat lower (since weak cases are less often pursued) but that it is harder to determine precisely what error rate is involved since the legal process and civic activism rarely takes the time and resources necessary to consider wrongful juvenile convictions or wrongful convictions for less serious crimes.

He also notes the difficulties involved in correcting some of the more common causes of wrongful convictions, and notes that race is a significant factor in many, and that coerced confessions from youths are another common cause.

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