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African-Americans More Likely to be Wrongfully Convicted, Study Finds

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African-Americans are more likely to be wrongfully convicted more than their White counterparts, research from the National Registry of Exonerations finds.

The report, “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States,” also found that Blacks are more likely to spend a longer time behind bars before they are exonerated.

African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 47 percent of the nearly 2,000 exonerations listed in the registry as of Oct. 2016.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and the Michigan STate University College of law focused on three types of crimes that produce the largest number of exonerations on the registry: murder, sexual assault and drug crimes.

In terms of murder cases, the numbers are astonishing. African-Americans are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than Whites in America.

Other key findings of the study:

  • African-American prisoners who are convicted of murder are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers. Part of that disparity is tied to the race of the victim.
  • The convictions that led to murder exonerations with Black defendants were 22% more likely to include misconduct by police officers than those with White defendants.
  • Many of the convictions of African-American murder exonerees were affected by a wide range of types of racial discrimination, from unconscious bias and institutional discrimination to explicit racism.
  • Most wrongful convictions are never discovered. Researchers have no direct measure of the number of all convictions of innocent murder defendants, but researchers’ best estimate suggests that they outnumber those they know about many times over. Judging from exonerations, half of those innocent murder defendants are African-Americans.

Click here for the full report.

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