Mass Exoneration Data and the Causes of Wrongful Convictions

48 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2011 Last revised: 22 Aug 2011

See all articles by Russell D. Covey

Russell D. Covey

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: 2011


What we currently know about the persons who have been wrongfully convicted is based largely on exonerations resulting from post-conviction testing of DNA. Study of those cases has produced a dataset of information about the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions and the procedures relied upon both to convict and then, later, to exonerate, those defendants. While critically important, this dataset has important limitations, chief among them is that it is largely limited to the kinds of cases in which DNA evidence is available for post-conviction testing.

Drawing on fresh empirical data, my paper attempts to improve the dataset on the wrongfully convicted by assessing another group of exonerees, those exonerated in two major scandals, the Rampart scandal in Los Angeles, and the Tulia scandal in Texas. In both of these cases, large numbers of persons were wrongfully convicted and later formally exonerated. The profile of these defendants varies dramatically from that of the typical DNA exoneree. Broadening the data set to include these exonerees should cause us to rethink the major causes of wrongful convictions and the most pressing remedial solutions to the problem.

Keywords: Wrongful convictions, guilty pleas, plea bargaining, mass exonerations, police, police corruption

Suggested Citation

Covey, Russell D., Mass Exoneration Data and the Causes of Wrongful Convictions (2011). Available at SSRN: or

Russell D. Covey (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
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