THE MISSION OF THE NATIONAL REGISTRY OF EXONERATIONS is to provide comprehensive information on exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in order to prevent future false convictions by learning from past errors.
What we do: The Registry collects, analyzes and disseminates information about all known exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in the United States, from 1989 to the present. We publish their stories and we provide accessible, searchable online statistical data about their cases. We also conduct empirical studies of the process of exoneration and of factors that lead to the underlying wrongful convictions.
We study false convictions—their frequency, distribution, causes, costs and consequences—in order to educate policy makers and the general public about convictions of innocent defendants. We focus on exonerations because the only false convictions that we know about are those that end in exoneration.
We aim to be accurate, objective, transparent and accessible.
We rely entirely on publicly available information. We do not practice law or investigate cases of possible innocence. We do not collect, maintain or use confidential information of any sort, or work on behalf of any individuals. We do not make our own judgments about the guilt or innocence of convicted defendants. Our criteria for classifying cases as exonerations are based on official actions by courts and other government agencies.
Our primary goal is to reform the criminal justice system and reduce if not eliminate these tragic errors in the future. We also aim to make police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges more sensitive to the problem of wrongful convictions and more willing to reconsider the guilt of defendants who have already been convicted when new evidence of innocence comes to light.
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.