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Craig Mastantuono April 3, 2013

The National Registry of Exonerations issued its report today regarding exonerations in the United States. According to its website, a case qualifies as an exoneration where a person convicted of a crime is later declared innocent by a government official or agency, or is relieved of all legal consequences of the conviction. See the Registry’s Glossary. Relief from the legal consequences of conviction can come in the form of a pardon, acquittal at a subsequent trial, or dismissal. Whatever the mode, it must be based upon evidence of innocence either not presented at trial or unknown to the defense at the time of a guilty plea. The Registry identified 1,050 cases from 1989 through December 31, 2012, and continues to identify more.

Of the cases identified in the updated 2012 report, Wisconsin ranks 4th in the Country for exonerations per capita with 27, while Illinois, Louisiana, and New York round out the top three. Pg. 14 When looking at the number of exonerations per state without compensating for population, California is first with 119. Interestingly, most exonerations are for homicide and sexual assault convictions, but only 32% are exonerations based upon DNA evidence. Pg. 6, 9.

The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint effort between the University of Michigan Law School and the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Law School.