What Can DNA Exonerations Tell Us About Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates?

34 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2018

See all articles by David Bjerk

David Bjerk

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Eric Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; RAND

Abstract

We examine the extent to which DNA exonerations can reveal whether wrongful conviction rates differ across races. We show that under a wide-range of assumptions regarding possible explicit or implicit racial biases in the DNA exoneration process (including no bias), our results suggest the wrongful conviction rate for rape is substantially and significantly higher among black convicts than white convicts. By contrast, we show that only if one believes that the DNA exoneration process very strongly favors innocent members of one race over the other could one conclude that there exist significant racial differences in wrongful conviction rates for murder.

Keywords: DNA evidence, wrongful convictions, justice, discrimination

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Bjerk, David and Helland, Eric A., What Can DNA Exonerations Tell Us About Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11837. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3261696

David Bjerk (Contact Author)

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Eric A. Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States
909-607-7275 (Phone)
909-621-8243 (Fax)

RAND ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States

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