The envelope, Please. And the winner of the coveted Wrongie Award goes to the great state of Texas. In the past 25 years, 117 Texans have been exonerated, and Justice Wallace Jefferson of the state’s Supreme Court, wants to know why. According to the NYT, Jefferson is establishing a committee to investigate wrongful convictions. He is quoted as saying, “If innocent people are rotting in prison for crimes they did not commit, we certainly have not achieved justice for all.” Of the 117, 47 were freed by forensic DNA analysis.
Nation wide, just over 400 innocents have been exonerated using DNA. That means that the number of DNA exonerees in Texas would be a whopping 12.5% of the nation’s total.
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, approximately 1 in 8 death row inmates has been exonerated. That’s what we know, because that number is in fact knowable. What isn’t, is how many innocent people are suffering in jails and prisons at this very moment. Worse, how many have we already executed?
According to the Web site, Facts on Exoneration, in Louisiana:
- Exonerated inmates typically roll out of Louisiana prisons like everyone else; they get a bag of possessions and $10 from the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
- Often, despite the time they’ve served, their skills have not improved because unlike inmates with preset release dates, inmates facing death or serving life without parole often aren’t allowed job training, literacy classes, or GED preparation.
- Until exonerees complete the state’s lengthy pardon process, their convictions show up when potential employers, landlords, or creditors do criminal background checks.
- Most exonerees have no health insurance, which allows them no way to remedy the psychological and physical toll of Louisiana’s prison system.
- Some exonerees, if they get a bus fare on their release, take a bus to what once was home. But when they get there, no one is waiting. Often, exonerees have lost all of their possessions, their housing, and their loved ones. Their children have been raised without them; their parents have often died.
- Putting lives back together is slow, and exonerees are on their own.
In 1992, Two young lawyers, Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, founded The Innocence Project. The goal of the project is to secure exonerations for people using a form of forensic DNA analysis known as postconviction analysis. Here, DNA from the crime scene is tested against that of the inmate – after his trial has concluded. Crime scene evidence is stored for long periods after trial by the individual states. Samples of blood, hair or skin can often be used after the fact to secure one’s innocence. What’s more, That same DNA can be used in conjunction with criminal databases such as CODIS, and the real perp can be found. Since its founding, The Innocence Project has helped exonerate over 300 wrongfully convicted prisoners.
To learn more, go to Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations by the Innocence Project.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
- Texas justice wants commission on bad convictions (khou.com)
- Innocent of Crime, Tainted by Time: Exonorees Struggle (citylimits.org)
- Wrongfully Accused; Wrongly Judged; Wrongfully Imprisoned (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Tab for wrongful convictions in Texas: $65 million and counting (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction (toysoldier.wordpress.com)
- BRAIN INJURIES, INNOCENCE PROJECT, GUILTY, PRISON, DNA, DNA EXONERATIONS, MARCUS ROSENBERGER. Part 2 . . . How many innocent people are there in prison? (realestatesavant.wordpress.com)
- Justice wants commission on bad convictions (victoriaadvocate.com)
- Texas Leads U.S. in Executions, Payments to Exonerated Inmates (bloomberg.com)
- How Many Innocent People Have We Sent To Prison? (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- Fla. death row exoneree to speak at UNM Law School (sfgate.com)