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Illinois Again Led Nation In Exonerations Last Year, With 126

There were 228 exonerations in 26 states and the District of Columbia last year, says the National Registry of Exonerations its annual report. There were five exonerations in federal cases. For the fifth year in a row, Illinois had the most exonerations (126), accounting for more than half of the 2022 total, followed by Michigan (16), Texas (11), Louisiana (9) and New York (9). The vast majority of Illinois exonerations were cases tainted by misconduct of corrupt police officers led by Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who planted drugs or weapons on people after they refused to pay bribes. There were 97 exonerations in 2022 based on this misconduct. There were 25 Illinois exonerations for murder in 2022, many of them tied to misconduct by Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.

Of Michigan’s 16 exonerations, 11 were for wrongful murder convictions. There were five cases from Tennessee, the most ever from that state. Three of the cases are from Nashville, involving the work of the Davidson County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit and the Tennessee Innocence Project. Exonerations in 2022 were almost evenly split between violent and nonviolent crimes. It was driven by drug-possession exonerations (100), from Chicago and elsewhere. There were 81 homicide exonerations, which accounted for 35% of the total and nearly 70% of 2022. Defendants exonerated in 2022 spent 2,245 years incarcerated for their wrongful convictions, an average of 9.6 years per exoneree. The average in 2021 was 11.5 years.


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