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Study of Victim Experiences of Wrongful Conviction

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
105 pages
This study examined the experiences of victims of violent crimes during and after the exoneration of an individual wrongfully convicted for committing the crime against the victim.
Study findings highlight the significant adverse emotional and psychological impact that wrongful convictions have on victims of the crimes at issue. Factors that can either aggravate or mitigate the impact on the victim are the notification process, access to information and services, media attention, community reaction, and interaction with the criminal justice system and the wrongfully convicted individual. Case factors, such as victims' participation in the original trial (e.g., misidentifying the wrongfully convicted person), the availability of DNA evidence during the exoneration, and the identification and prosecution of the actual offender were also associated with the characteristics of victim experiences. The interconnection and features of these factors were significant in shaping victims' experiences. The recommendations offered in this study report are based largely on victims' and stakeholders' recommendations for improving the provision of notification, information, and services. Stakeholders also discussed the important role that training plays in improving the criminal justice system's response to victims. Counseling was the most common service need identified across interviewees; however, a number of victims indicated that mental health providers generally have limited or no experience in working with crime victims in cases of wrongful conviction. In addition to counseling and peer support, some victims and stakeholders also suggested that victims and wrongfully convicted individuals be given the opportunity to meet. Victims in these case studies report that these meetings were positive and beneficial. The study involved 265 cases of wrongful conviction identified in a systematic review in 2011. Surveys and interviews were conducted with samples of services providers and victims involved in these cases. 27 exhibits, 66 references, and appended study instruments

Date Published: September 1, 2012