Study finds 1 in 25 US death row inmates likely innocent

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Crescent International

Jumada' al-Akhirah 29, 1435 2014-04-29

Occasional Paper

by Crescent International

The US justice system is grossly unjust, as a new study into the number of people convicted of murder has just shown. Conducted out by legal experts, the study has found that more than 4.1 percent of people on death row, most of them African-Americans or Hispanics, have been wrongfully convicted.


Tuesday April 29, 2014, 16:28 DST

The US justice system is heavily loaded against minorities, especially African-Americans. It is well established that for the same crime, a black person is three times more likely to be sentenced than a white person.

While constituting 15 percent of the total population, blacks make up nearly 53 percent of the prison population. This has led racists and bigots to accuse the African-American population of being more prone to violence and crime, completely ignoring the injustices in the so-called justice system.

A new study has found another troubling aspect: an estimated four percent of the approximately 3,000 prisoners on death row are in fact innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. Legal experts and researchers from Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as other areas of the US came together to examine the hidden figures about death row inmates.

Lead researcher, Samuel Gross, Law Professor at the Michigan University Law School was reported by the British Guardian newspaper as saying: “There are a large number of people who are sentenced to death, and despite our best efforts some of them have undoubtedly been executed.”

Professor Gross’ peer-reviewed analysis was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and described the findings as “deliberately conservative.” What the results show is that wrongful convictions are not as uncommon as many would like to believe.

At present, only 1.6 percent of wrongfully convicted persons have had their sentences set aside whereas according to legal experts, if all the wrongful convictions were cleared, the true figure would jump to above 4.1 percent. According to Prison service figures, in the 30-year period, only 138 death row inmates were exonerated but the actual number should have been 340 prisoners.

Prisoners whose death sentences were set aside because of wrongful conviction, did not find automatic freedom. They were often sentenced to life term and continued to languish in prison when the initial accusation against them was false.

“This is a disturbing finding,” Professor Gross said. Certain states in the US, especially the southern states such as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, etc are notorious for executing death row inmates.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice statistics for 2013 showed that 11 out of the 16 prisoners executed in Texas were African Americans or Hispanics. Texas is notorious for executing death row inmates and accounts for 40 percent of all executions in the US since 1976.

Texas governor Rick Parry like his equally notorious predecessor who went on to become president of the United States, George W Bush, never pardoned a death row inmate. How many of these people were wrongfully convicted on evidence cooked by racist police officers?

“If you look at the numbers in our study, at how many errors are made, then you cannot believe that we haven’t executed any innocent person – that would be wishful thinking,” the study’s authors said.


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