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Blacks Comprise Two-Thirds of Last Year's Exonerations

More than two-thirds of people exonerated in wrongful conviction investigations last year were Black, including three on death row, says a report from the National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), Capital B reports.

The cases included the overturned convictions of two men — Sherwood Brown and Eddie Lee Howard Jr. — who were taken off Mississippi’s death row in separate cases involving doctors who testified about now-debunked bite mark evidence. Brown and Howard served a combined 54 years on death row. In Los Angeles, Barry Williams was released from death row in a case “riddled with police and prosecutor misconduct,” NRE says.

Since May 2012, the project has recorded 3,060 exonerees. More Black people have been found to be wrongfully convicted than whites: 1,570 Black men and 81 Black women, compared with 897 white men and 147 white women. Factors contributing to wrongful convictions include prosecutor misconduct, false confessions, and jailhouse informants. The report found that, in 2021, official misconduct occurred in at least 102 exonerations, including 77 percent of murder and manslaughter exonerations. There are variations of official misconduct that include withholding evidence favorable to the defendant, and forensic analysis misconduct, according. “Official misconduct was found in 42 percent of the cases in 2012. Now, more than 2,000 cases later, we see official misconduct in 56 percent,” the report says. The NRE database has tracked wrongful convictions since 1989. The effort aims to provide detailed information about every wrongful conviction in the U.S. and is maintained by the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School, and Michigan State University College of Law.


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