New Report Says Black People in the U.S. Are Seven Times More Likely to be Falsely Convicted of Serious Crimes Than White People

Black people in the U.S. are seven times more likely to be falsely convicted of a serious crime like murder than white people, according to a new report published Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations. The finding is based on an analysis of exonerations for serious crimes in the U.S. over the last four decades, which found that Black people make up less than 14% of the U.S. population but account for 53% of exonerations in the country.

“[The report] focuses on how it’s dangerous, in a particularly disturbing way, that there’s a possibility of being convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor and the lead author of the report, titled “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States 2022,” told Yahoo News. “The general conclusion is no surprise. Black people are much more likely to get the short end of the stick than white people.”

Data gathered from exonerations for murder, sexual assault and drug crimes from 1989 through August 2022 highlighted significant challenges in obtaining national criminal justice statistics, including finding clear answers on who reports data to whom and how this data is disseminated to react to trends. Most often, Gross said, counties rather than states are responsible for reporting crimes, which results in misreporting and/or a lack of accountability because of sheer volume.

“Criminal justice statistics in the United States are not bad,” Gross said. “They’re abysmal.”

In addition to dramatic disparities across racial groups in false convictions, the report finds that innocent Black people also spend a significantly longer time in prison before exoneration than white people, with many spending in excess of 20, 30 or 40 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. (National criminal justice statistics are not complete or accurate enough to permit systematic comparisons of Latinos, Asian Americans, Indigenous people and others.)

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SOURCE: Yahoo News, Marquise Francis