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Rate of wrongful convictions studied

Wrongful convictions in New York are sometimes overturned by the introduction of new DNA evidence not previously available. Anywhere between 3 and 5 percent of serious crimes like murder results in exoneration when new evidence comes to the light. Lesser crimes like aggravated assault and drug possession rarely get overturned due to wrongful convictions.

In a study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, cases of inmates were examined to determine the prevalence of wrongful convictions. A total of 3,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania were surveyed about being wrongfully convicted. An estimated 6 percent of the prison population was innocent of their convicted crime.

There are multiple approaches to uncovering the truth about the prevalence of wrongful convictions. Judges, prosecutors and other professionals working within the system could be interviewed. Prisoners could also be surveyed. Among the prisoners included in the recent survey, 8 percent reported no involvement in the crime committed while two-thirds took full responsibility for their involvement in the commission of a crime.

Conditions surrounding those who admitted guilt to crimes committed were also discussed as a part of the study. Some explained their acts as unintentional to researchers while others stated that they were not guilty of any act they were convicted of performing. Statistics furnished by the agency were compared against inmate responses and adjusted accordingly. A high response rate, which can be attributed to the promise of confidentiality, produced reliable results for researchers. Even though the survey was localized, it provides insight for factors surrounding wrongful convictions.

In a case where wrongful conviction may be a concern, it might be difficult to get the case re-opened. Wrongful convictions require the introduction of new evidence and resources, both of which may be guided by a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney might review the case and facilitate a case being re-opened for further scrutiny if a wrongful conviction is suspected.

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