By April 30, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

STUDY: 1 Out of 25 Sentenced to Die In the U.S. Are INNOCENT


A new study has revealed that at least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era have been completely innocent. According to the first major study calculating how often states go wrong in their capital verdicts, 1 out of 25 defendants are literally murdered by the State based on errant convictions.

Legal experts and statisticians from Michigan and Pennsylvania have come together to use the latest statistical techniques to analyze data relative to this controversial topic. Now they have produced a peer-reviewed estimate of the “dark figure” behind the death penalty. This figure estimates how many of those executed were falsely convicted.

According to the study, all of the innocent people who were given death sentences were later cleared of their offenses. By contrast, only 1.6%, specifically 340 prisoners from 1973 to 2004, were exonerated.

“This is a disturbing finding,” Samuel Gross, the lead author of the research and a law professor at the University of Michigan law school said. “There are a large number of people who are sentenced to death, and despite our best efforts some of them have undoubtedly been executed.”

The research team deployed a technique known as “survival analysis”. This statistical technique helps to calculate the percentage of prisoners who have been taken off death row but who might likely still be innocent.

The team further applied the “sensitivity analysis”, taking account of possible cases of exonerations where the released prisoner happened to be guilty. In this way they made certain that they erred on the side of caution.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Still, it doesn’t answer the all important question of just how many of those innocents sentences actually are executed.

“If you look at the numbers in our study, at how many errors are made, then you cannot believe that we haven’t executed any innocent person – that would be wishful thinking,” Gross explained.

The largest group of death row inmates are those who are neither exonerated and released nor executed, according to the study.

Gross and his fellow-authors estimate in the report that 36% of all those sentenced to death between the years of 1973 through 2004 – a total of 2,675 – were taken off death row after serious questions regarding their guilt were raised.

The authors of the study conclude their report with a disturbing finding that, “the great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated. They are sentenced, or resentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten”.

“The best efforts of the judicial system are only devoted to prisoners when they face execution,” Gross told sadly. “In many cases when people are released from death row, little or nothing is done to deal with the equally bad injustice they now face – that they will spend the rest of their lives in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.”

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