Since 1989, 200 people have had their convictions overturned in California because they were wrong. In a major study conducted by UC Berkeley School of Law, researchers found that:
- California leads the nation in exonerations as defined by the National Registry of Exonerations with 120, surpassing Illinois (110), Texas (100), and New York (100);
- Since 1989, courts have exonerated or dismissed convictions against 214 Californians. Reasons include official misconduct, insufficient evidence, findings of innocence, ineffective defense, and legal error;
- The vast majority of these wrongfully convicted individuals served time in state or federal prison before their convictions were thrown out, collectively losing 1,313 years of their freedom;
- 40% of individuals in the dataset were initially sentenced to 20 years or more in prison, including many who received life, life without parole, or death sentences before their convictions were overturned;
- African Americans have been wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than people of other races and that the majority of wrongful convictions occur in just a few counties.
Rampart Police Scandal
In late 1990 the Los Angeles Police Department was involved in widespread police corruption scandal in the Communities Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit. More than 70 police officers were charged with misconduct. The misconduct included unprovoked shootings and beatings, planting of false evidence, stealing and dealing narcotics, perjury, and obstruction of justice, among other crimes. The UC Berkeley School of Law study also found that:
- Individuals framed in the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s account for 25% of the wrongful convictions in the dataset (53 people thus far; news reports estimate the total number of exonerated individuals at greater than 100;)
- Excluding the Rampart cases, all of which were due to official misconduct, major factors contributing to these wrongful convictions include:
- perjury or false accusation (42% of the cases);
- official misconduct by police or prosecutors (39% of cases);
- mistaken eyewitness ID (26% of cases);
- inadequate or ineffective defense counsel (19% of cases); and
- DNA evidence (fewer than 6% of the cases).
This was the final installment of the series DNA Profiling by Law Enforcement in California.
Have You Been Arrested in San Diego, California?
There is no greater injustice than being convicted of a crime you did not commit. If you or someone you know was wrongfully convicted, contact San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer David Boertje to understand your legal rights. Continue reading