A record number of prisoners were exonerated in 2013, as 87 people who had been convicted and sentenced to prison for crimes they did not commit found their freedom, according to a new report by the National Registry of Exonerations.
All but eight of the freed prisoners are men. More than half are black. Most were wrongly convicted of homicide or sexual assault, including one man who was sentenced to death, according to the report.
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Most of the exonerations occurred in Texas (13), followed by Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7), California (6), Michigan (5), Missouri (5), Connecticut (4), Georgia (4), and Virginia (4).
Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross, who authored the latest report, told NBC News that the increased number of exonerations is a victory for the criminal justice system.
“It says that we’ve been doing a better job of discovering and remedying (wrongful convictions),” he said. “It doesn’t tell us about the underlying rate of wrongful convictions that happened last year or the year before. The average time to exoneration for these cases was over 12 years.”
Seven people have been exonerated so far in 2014, the most recent of which is Dewey Jones of Ohio. Jones was sentenced to life in prison for a 1993 slaying in Akron. DNA tests obtained by the Ohio Innocence Project on physical evidence taken from the crime scene eliminated Jones as the killer. He was exonerated Jan. 30, according to the report.
The National Registry of Exonerations was launched almost two years ago by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. At that time, the report’s authors say, the Registry listed 891 cases. It has since grown to 1,304.
“The Registry changes constantly,” the report stated. “We add exonerations virtually every week. We have removed a few cases after learning that they do not in fact meet our criteria. And we constantly update summaries of cases that are already listed, add missing data and correct errors, based on our own research and information from others.”
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