Errors in Misdemeanor Adjudication – 18 June 2018 There are millions of misdemeanor convictions each year in the United States. They make up the great majority of all criminal convictions, but only about 4% of exonerations (85/2,145, as of the end of 2017). The reason is simple: exonerations are expensive, time-consuming affairs. The scarce resources they require are generally reserved for convictions that send innocent people to prison for many years. Nearly all the few misdemeanor exonerations we know about depended on unlikely events that made the process cheap and simple—usually forensic tests that police conducted for their own purposes; sometimes previously unknown videos, or criminal investigations of dishonest police officers. These fortuitous opportunities have produced clusters of misdemeanor exonerations, but without the benefit of such rare events, innocent defendants convicted of misdemeanors are just out of luck.
Why So Few Misdemeanor Exonerations? – 6 October 2015 Fewer than 2% of the exonerations in the Registry—28 out of 1,671 as of October 2015—are for misdemeanors, despite the fact that they make up at least 80% of criminal convictions in the United States. So why so few misdemeanor exonerations?
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.