Exonerations for wrongful convictions in murder cases through DNA evidence have been a big news story for the last few years. In other cases, new evidence can appear, or old witnesses can withdraw their testimony. The end result is that a significant number of Kentucky inmates are ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to research from Penn University, there are exonerations in 3 to 5 percent of all capital crimes. Capital crimes can include rape and murder. However, the Penn study was the first to ever consider exoneration figures for non-capital crimes.
The survey reviewed the convictions of approximately 3,000 Pennsylvania prisoners. The research, which was reported in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology in April of 2018, estimates that 6 percent of the prisoners that were studied had been convicted wrongfully. To create this study, researchers directly asked each inmate themselves. The researchers believe that the prisoners were most likely to best know the details of their own convictions. While the obvious concern is that the inmates would show bias and respond untruthfully, a full 66 percent of them took full responsibility for their crimes. Another 25 percent took at least some level of responsibility. Only 8 percent of all inmates claimed total innocence.
The first step that someone who has been charged with a crime needs to take to avoid a wrongful conviction is to discuss his or her case with an experienced attorney. A lawyer that has previous experience in criminal defense law may be able to help that person obtain a favorable plea deal or even convince the prosecutor to drop all charges. When a plea can't be reached, an attorney can help his or her clients prepare their defense and make the best case to a jury of their peers.