In the study, it was noted that while Blacks are only 13 percent of the population, 47 percent of that group were later exonerated.
There were 166 exonerations in 2016, an average of three per week ― the most since the analysis began in 1989 and double the number in 2011, the National Registry of Exonerations annual report finds. These were mostly drug cases but also some child sex abuse cases. Part of that disparity is tied to the race of the victim.
This year researchers made a decision to go back over its entire history of reporting exonerations dating back to 1989 to examine the role of race in wrongful convictions. The bulk of the racial disparities in sexual assault convictions can be explained by white victims who mistakenly identify black assailants, said Gross, particularly when the victim is a white woman and the offender a black man. Black prisoners who are convicted of murder are about 50 percent more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers.
"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", Gross said, as quoted by Reuters. 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. "Only about 15% of murders by African Americans have white victims, but 31% of innocent African-American murder exonerees were convicted of killing white people".
Innocent black people are about 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent white people.
Black people are seven times more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted of murder, and cases where black people were exoneratedwere 22 percent more likely to involve police misconduct than cases involving white people. The researchers stress that their data likely does not cover all innocent people in prison, given that there are likely thousands of innocent people in prison who have yet to be - or never will be - exonerated.
Many more are innocent, but not yet cleared. "It appears that innocent black sexual assault defendants receive harsher sentences than whites if they are convicted, and then face greater resistance to exoneration even in cases in which they are ultimately released". Reminder: Despite what some people believe, stats show that blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate.
Racial disparities have always been evident in the US criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is.
"In some cases, you see some type of explicit racism", Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of MI and a senior editor of the report, told CNN.
While Jenkins commended the Harris County officials for testing suspected drugs even after a defendant has pleaded guilty, he said there's work to be done when it comes to how law enforcement treats the African-American community.
"There's no doubt anymore that innocent people get convicted regularly-that's beyond dispute", said Barbara O'Brien, a Michigan State University law professor and editor for the registry, in a press release. There have been 2,000 known exonerations in the USA since 1989.
This was also the third straight year there have been a record number of exonerations in drug cases. Others were younger than 18 when they were convicted, or had intellectual disabilities. Some had been on death row.