As originally reported by Mother Jones, a report from the University of Michigan Law School has declared that 2015 set a new record for the highest amount of people that have been freed after it was proven that they were wrongfully convicted. As detailed in the report, there were several reasons why innocent people ended up behind bars. that ranged from outright misconduct by prosecutors and police to those pressured into taking a plea bargain even though they were actually innocent.
Shockingly, there were actually 75 total cases in which no actual crime (even victimless ones) were even committed in the first place. Also, included within the 149 people released were five individuals awaiting the death penalty. Pointed out within the report is the fact that a combination of those two factors led to the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in Texas, in spite of a wide range of evidence that the fire his three children died in was accidental and not a case of arson, for which he was convicted and subsequently killed.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of those wrongfully convicted resulted from the War On (Some) Drugs, many of which even if they had been valid would have involved non-violent victimless “crimes” in the first place.
Included below is the MotherJones.com article detailing the report and its conclusions:
Call it the Serial effect. According to a new report from the University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations, 2015 set a record for the number of wrongly convicted Americans who finally found justice. There were 149 people last year who were either declared innocent or otherwise cleared of the consequences of their convictions or guilty pleas. Many had served some lengthy prison time—the average exoneree had served nearly 15 years—for crimes they did not commit.
The data in the report paints a disturbing portrait of a criminal justice system riven with errors and official misconduct. Among the lowlights: