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Record High Exonerations in 2022

by Jordan Arizmendi

The most exonerations in one year occurred in 2022. According to the Nation Registry of Exonerations’ 2022 Annual Report, the 233 people exonerated in 2022 lost an average of 9.6 years of their life as a result of their wrongful incarceration.

Alarmingly but not shocking, the report detailed that at least 195 of the 233 exonerations claimed official misconduct to be the cause of their wrongful imprisonment. In addition, 59% of the 233 exonerations included wrongful convictions when no actual crime had even occurred – child sex abuse, drug possession, murder, for example.

Of the 233 exonerations, 81 were for homicide charges; 16 were for sexual assault, 12 of those included children; 20 were for violent crimes other than homicides or sexual assault, such as robbery or attempted murder; and 166 defendants were exonerated for non-violent crimes.

Among the exonerations, 195 were as a result of official misconduct; 54 involved mistaken witness identification; 31 were for convictions based on a false confession; 184 involved false accusations; 44 included false or misleading forensic evidence; and 56 were caused by ineffective assistance of counsel.

One interesting facet illustrated in the report’s conclusion was the sharp increase of exonerations occurring when no crime had been committed. The Registry began in 1989. Every year since then, exonerations in no-crime cases made up roughly 30% of the yearly totals. Since 2008, however, about half of exonerations were for no-crime cases. The report stated that most no-crime exonerations are for drug possession wrongful convictions.

Troublingly, almost all such cases are the result of corrupt police officers.

Sources: National Registry of Exonerations 2022 Annual Report

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