How Many False Convictions are There? How Many Exonerations are There?
Samuel R. Gross
University of Michigan Law School
February 26, 2013
Wrongful Convictions and Miscarriages of Justice: Causes and Remedies in North American and European Criminal Justice Systems, C. R. Huff & M. Killias eds., Routledge, March 2013
U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 316
The most common question about false convictions is also the simplest: How many are there? The answer, unfortunately, is almost always the same and always disappointing: We don’t know. Recently, however, we have learned enough to be able to qualify our ignorance in two important respects. We can put a lower bound on the frequency of false convictions among death sentences in the United States since 1973, and we have some early indications of the rate of false convictions for rape in Virginia in the 1970s and early 1980s. These new sources of information suggest – tentatively – that the rate of false convictions for serious violent felonies in the United States may be somewhere in the range from 1% to 5%. Beyond that – for less serious crimes and for other countries – our ignorance is untouched.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: Wrongful conviction, false conviction, exoneration, death penalty, rape, criminal justice
Date posted: February 28, 2013 ; Last revised: March 12, 2013