“Everybody’s worst fear about capital punishment is that innocent people will be wrongfully convicted and executed,” Robert Dunham, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) executive director, said. “But the more we learn about what actually happens in these cases, the worse the problem gets.”
The DPIC added 11 cases to its “Innocence List” that tracks American death row exonerations on Thursday, bringing the total to 185 and raising concerns over the likelihood more innocents – especially people of colour – will be condemned.
DPIC has found wrongful death penalty convictions in “virtually every part of the country, with exonerations documented in 29 states and 118 different counties”, the report found. By their estimate, one in every 8.3 people sentenced to death in the United States since capital punishment resumed in 1970 were exonerated.
The cases reveal trends of “misconduct and racial bias”, the DPIC said. About 70 percent involved misconduct from police, prosecutors or other government officials. Roughly 80 percent “involved some combination of misconduct or perjury/false accusation and more than half involved both”.
Black exonerees saw misconduct in their cases at a much higher rate, 78.8 percent, than white exonerees at 58.2 percent. “Black exonerees spent an average of 4.3 more years waiting for exoneration than white exonerees”, the report said.