According to the National Registry of Exonerations, prisoners in Minnesota and throughout the country lost over 1,600 years to wrongful convictions in 2018. That was the highest figure since this statistic was first tracked in 1989. In 2018, there were 151 prisoners who were released after it was determined that they hadn’t committed the crime they were convicted of. Those individuals served an average of 11 years in custody.
In 70 cases, the crime that an individual was convicted of had not even occurred. One man was on death row after being convicted of sexual assault on a 21-month-old child. It was determined that the girl’s injuries were likely sustained in a car accident. In another 17 cases, an individual confessed to a crime that he or she had not committed. Police and other official misconduct was a driving force behind many of the wrongful convictions.
In Chicago, 15 men had their convictions overturned in 2017 after it was discovered that a police officer had planted drugs on those who wouldn’t go along with an extortion plot. In 2018, another 14 people were exonerated after further corruption had been discovered. Questionable witness testimony is another reason why people may be falsely convicted: Two men who had served 45 and 44 years in prison were released last year after they had been sent to prison on the basis of unreliable testimony.
Individuals who are charged with criminal offenses have the right to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel may be able to cast doubt on witness testimony or other evidence used at trial. Steps might also be taken to negotiate plea deals that may keep defendants out of jail or prison.