A report from the National Registry of Exonerations reveals that 166 people were exonerated in 2016. The number is more than twice the exoneration rate of five years earlier.
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Conviction Review Units
While the rate of exonerations has been steadily increasing since the National Registry of Exonerations database began in 1989, the number of people exonerated has hit record highs for the past three years. Municipalities taking steps to increase prosecutorial accountability is contributing to the increase. Dallas County, Texas is credited with creating the country’s first conviction review unit in 2007. The success of this unit and growing concern nationwide about miscarriages of justice have inspired the formation of similar programs in many other counties.
Among the most high-profile exonerations due to case review by such a unit is the Raymond Lee Jennings case. The case received national attention when it was featured on NBC’s Dateline. Jennings was tried three times for murdering 18-year-old Michelle O’Keefe in 2000. The third trial resulted in him being convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey received funding from the Board of Supervisors for her review unit in 2015. Jennings was released in June of 2016 after the unit reviewed his conviction.
When Someone is Falsely Accused
The rising number of exonerations shows that innocent people need aggressive legal representation in every stage of the legal process. A Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer can advise accused individuals of their rights and best course of action based on the details of their individual cases. Anyone arrested should expect to be treated as though they are guilty by the investigators and prosecutors. Even people who have not yet been charged with a crime, but are suspects or being questioned by authorities can benefit from consulting with a criminal defense lawyer about their situation and how to best move forward.
The purpose of the criminal justice system is to protect innocent people and bring justice to victims of crimes. When an innocent person is convicted, the system has failed both the accused and the victims, and compromised the integrity of future cases. Prosecutors’ offices that form conviction review units are taking positive steps to correct wrongful convictions and prevent similar injustices from occurring again. A Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer works to protect innocent people from being wrongly convicted and ensure that those accused receive a fair trial.