African-Americans are far more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes such as murder, sexual assault and illegal drug activity than whites due to factors including racial bias and official misconduct, a study released on Tuesday said.
The study also found that Black defendants were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than their white counterparts. Similarly, 59 percent of exonerations for sexual assault were for black defendants, and 34 percent were for white defendants. The registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989 - cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.
"The convictions that led to murder exonerations with black defendants were 22% more likely to include misconduct by police officers than those with white defendants". "The major cause for this huge racial disparity appears to be the high danger of mistaken eyewitness identification by white victims in violent crimes with black assailants".
For example, the researchers found that some of the disparity is driven in large part by higher murder rates in black communities.
A second registry report released Tuesday, "Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States", found that while African-Americans account for 13 percent of the US population, they constitute 47 percent of all exonerations nationally from 1989 until last October. Of all the exonerations, 70 cases involved official misconduct of some sort, and in 74 of the cases, convictions came from guilty pleas.
A report from the National Registry of Exonerations shows a record number of wrongfully convicted people were cleared across the country a year ago, including four Virginians. Researchers have no direct measure of the number of all convictions of innocent murder defendants, but researchers' best estimate suggests that they outnumber those they know about many times over. Innocent black people are 12 times as likely to be convicted of a drug crime as innocent white people. That racial dynamic was in play in half of all sexual assault cases that led to wrongful convictions but occurred in only 11 percent of all sexual assault cases in the U.S. Blacks are more frequently stopped, searched, arrested, and convicted-including in cases in which they are innocent.
Among those inmates listed on the registry are former Alabama death row inmates Anthony Ray Hinton and Gary Drinkard.
While black and white Americans use illicit substances at about the same rate, African Americans are about five times more likely to go to prison for drug possession as whites.
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"We know about almost 1,700 cases in group exonerations that are mostly drug crime frame ups", said Samuel Gross, the author of the report.
There were 166 exonerations in 2016, an average of three per week ― the most since the analysis began in 1989 and double the number in 2011, the National Registry of Exonerations annual report finds.
Oddly, many blacks plead guilty to crimes they did not commit: they fear going ahead with a full-blown jury trial and being punished with even more years in prison.
"Most of those defendants are African Americans".
Alabama had four exonerated in 2015, tying the state for seventh in the nation in exonerations that year, according to the Registry.
Read the exoneration report for 2016 here. This is not to dismiss issues of race and how it affects jury decisions and eyewitness accounts-but many police and prosecutors are more than willing to use and abuse those issues to get "results".
Hinton, who is black, blames race for his conviction.