Updated: July 1, 2012 12:42PM
More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.
The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Michigan Law School, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.
The database compiled by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.
They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent an average of more than 11 years in prison apiece. Nine out of 10 are men and half are African-American.
Nearly half of the 873 exonerations were homicide cases, including 101 death sentences. Over one-third were sexual assaults.
DNA evidence led to exoneration in nearly one-third of the 416 homicides and in nearly two-thirds of the 305 sexual assaults.
The overall registry/list, which begins at the start of 1989, “is a good start,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.
In half of the 873 exonerations studied in detail, the most common factor leading to false convictions was perjured testimony or false accusations. Forty-three percent of the cases involved mistaken eyewitness identification. AP