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Exonerations in 2013: The National Registry of Exonerations

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2014
40 pages
This report features data on exonerations (cases in which previously convicted persons are subsequently determined by a court to be innocent) that occurred in 2013.
The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 87 exonerations that occurred in 2013. This was a record-breaking year, surpassing the previous high of 83 known exonerations in 2009. The 10 States with the most exonerations in 2013 were Texas (13), Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7), California (6), Michigan (5), Missouri (5) Connecticut (4), Georgia (4), and Virginia (4). The Registry has now recorded 1,304 exonerations from 1989 to February 3, 2014. The data on exonerations for 2013 reflect several long-term trends in exonerations in America. The related trends have one common theme regarding the type of evidence available to prove the defendant's innocence. If there is DNA from the actual offender that does not match the defendant, proof of innocence is straightforward; otherwise, proving innocence is more difficult. The most difficult case for achieving exoneration is when a person is convicted of a crime that did not occur; e.g., when an event ruled a homicide is actually an accident, a sexual assault was falsely claimed, or a person is framed for a drug crime that did not occur. A second common theme is related to resources and attention. The cases that receive the most attention and expenditure of resources involve convictions for murder or rape, which are violent crimes that carry the harshest sentences. Exoneration in 2013, however, suggest a greater willingness to focus on innocence claims that have often been previously ignored, i.e., those without biological evidence or with no actual perpetrator, cases with comparatively light sentences, and sentences based on guilty pleas. Illustrative examples are provided for eight exonerations added in 2013. Figures and tables