Study Finds Black Americas More Likely To Be Wrongfully Convicted Than Whites
Study Finds Black Americas More Likely To Be Wrongfully Convicted Than Whites
Figures reveal that 47 per cent of those exonerated for crimes they did not commit are black
08 March, 2017, 00:50
"In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African American compared to cases where the defendant is white", said Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan Law School professor who is senior editor of the group that tracks USA exonerations. In 2016, in East Cleveland, Ohio, more than 40 defendants' convictions were overturned after three police officers were imprisoned for planting drugs, stealing money, and filing false search warrants. These were mostly drug cases but also some child sex abuse cases. While blacks and whites have similar rates of illegal drug use, black people are more likely to be arrested and convicted of such offenses than white people are, researchers found.
The year 2016 saw a record 166 exonerations after wrongful convictions, 54 of those in homicide cases.
In terms of sexual assault, a black prisoner is three-and-a-half times more likely to be innocent than a white person wrongfully convicted of sexual assault. The reason? Mistaken eyewitness identification: White people are more likely to mistake one black person for another than they are to misidentify members of their own race.
The study also found that Black defendants were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than their white counterparts.
Chillingly, black prisoners later exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted were 22% more likely to have been targeted by police misconduct, a function of everything from malevolent individual racism by law enforcement and prosecutors to institutional discrimination. A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project between the University of California, Irvine; University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law, shows that blacks are more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites and are also likely to spend longer in prison before being exonerated for their crimes. Judging from exonerations, half of those innocent murder defendants are African-Americans.
Innocent black people are about 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent white people.
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A recent review of nearly 2,000 exonerations nationwide, over the span of three decades, has shown that black people are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted of sexual assault or murder only to later be found innocent. "Of the many costs that the War on Drugs inflicts on the black community, the practice of deliberately charging innocent defendants with fabricated crimes may be the most shameful". "One possibility is that they're more conscientious".
Overall, the study paints a very clear picture: Black people are disadvantaged within the criminal justice system, leading to massive disparities even among those who are entirely innocent.
"Harris County is extremely valuable for our research because it's an unusual example of something you wouldn't otherwise see", said Samuel Gross, a University of MI law professor and senior editor of the study.
While black and white Americans use illicit substances at about the same rate, African Americans are about five times more likely to go to prison for drug possession as whites. A few years later, however, McMillian's lawyers discovered a recording of Myers complaining that officers forced him to implicate McMillian-a man he didn't even know-for a crime neither of them had committed. There have been 2,000 known exonerations in the US since 1989. The other three Virginia cases were two members of the "Norfolk Four", and a Crozet man wrongly convicted of murder.
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