Crime & Justice
3:14 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Report: Texas Led Nation in Exonerations Last Year

Texas exonerated more prisoners – 13 – than any other state last year.

A report out today shows a nationwide push by prosecutors to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013. The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people were exonerated last year.

The Texas Tribune has more:

Thirteen Texans were officially absolved of wrongdoing last year for crimes ranging from murder to drug possession. Some had spent more than a decade in prison, and others a few months. The state with the second-most exonerations was Illinois, with nine, followed by New York, with eight. 

The national registry, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, was launched in 2012. It tracks every known exoneration in the United States since 1989. Texas has 133 exonerations listed. Only New York, with 152, and California, with 136, have more.

The report points to some trends among exonerations, including a decline in DNA-related exonerations. "The number of exonerations in which DNA played any role has dipped from 23 in 2005, to 20 in 2012, to 18 in 2013," the report states.

The report also states that "[15] of the 87 known exonerations in 2013 – 17 percent – occurred in cases in which the defendants were convicted after pleading guilty, also a record number. Such cases used to be far less common " – in many cases, signaling a willingness to plead guilty in return for lesser charges.

You can read the full report [PDF] online.

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