To date, 12 people have been released from Pennsylvania prisons when DNA testing proved their innocence. These men collectively spent 139 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. In 2 of those cases, police have identified the true perpetrator of the crime; the remainder are unsolved. Of course wrongful convictions stop at no state borders. There are 342 DNA exonerations across the nation. In 45% of these cases, the process of settling the innocence claim resulted in the identification of the true perpetrator of those crimes.
Tragically, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes committed many additional crimes while the innocent languished behind bars. Nationwide this includes more than 60 sex assaults and 24 murders. This data probably only begins to tell the larger story of all of the crimes that were actually committed in that these were only known convictions. When we convict the wrong person, all of us are harmed.
- Making our system safer for the innocent does not mean making it easier for the guilty.
- Law enforcement agencies all over the country are voluntarily adopting measures to ensure evidence is accurate and reliable.
- The updates proposed are developed based upon principles derived from 30 years of social science research.
- It’s not a matter of blaming police or prosecutors, but adapting law enforcement and investigations to modern best practices.
- DNA exonerations are only a tip of the iceberg, as criminalists estimate that DNA is only present in 10-17% of all serious felony cases. Non-DNA cases involve the same potential for wrongful conviction—eyewitness misidentification, forensic science inaccuracies, false confessions, misuse of government informants—as DNA cases do.
We know how to ensure accuracy and reliability in our investigations. Now is the time to make the change, to protect all of us and restore confidence in our criminal justice system.