Myths and Facts from http://picturetheinnocent.com/:
- Myth: Wrongful convictions are rare.
Fact: Modern DNA testing has demonstrated that wrongful convictions are far more common than previously thought. Analysis of exoneration rates for murders and sexual assault cases in the United States where DNA material was available indicates that at least 3.3% of those convicted in such crimes are factually innocent. No one knows how much higher the percentage of wrongful convictions for lesser crimes may be. If the ratio of wrongful convictions is 3.3% across the entire spectrum of convictions, then over 79,000 people are imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The number could be far higher, especially if one assumes that greater effort is expended to ensure accuracy in cases of murder and sexual assault.
- Myth: Inmates always say they're innocent.
Fact: Not true. Although inmates may claim mitigating circumstance, or that the punishment they've received is too harsh for the crime, the vast majority realize that false claims of innocence are unwise. After conviction judges are likely to impose harsher sentences on those who refuse to admit to the crime and show remorse. Refusal of inmates to admit to a crime can have adverse consequences during incarceration, to include being barred from various prison programs, receiving "good time," and the denial of parole.
- Myth: Safeguards against wrongful convictions will permit the guilty to go free.
Fact: Policies and procedures that reduce the chances of a wrongful conviction increase the probability that the actual perpetrator will be identified and prosecuted. Every time the wrong person is convicted of a crime, the guilty person goes free and continues to endanger our communities.
- Myth: If someone loses an appeal, they must be guilty.
Fact: The appellate process doesn't consider innocence. Appeals are a review of the trial procedures used to convict a person. Often those convicted at trial are subsequently denied forensic testing that could prove their innocence.
- Myth: DNA testing will solve the problem of wrongful convictions.Fact: Most crimes do not involve DNA evidence. Often, DNA evidence is lost, destroyed, or damaged. However, the causes of wrongful conviction--flawed eyewitness identification, forensic deficiencies, snitch testimony, bad lawyering, prosecutorial misconduct--are present in many such cases. Until policy changes address the causes of wrongful convictions, many more people will be wrongfully convicted.
- Myth: Exoneration is the path to riches.
Fact: Large settlements after exonerations are rare. Many states have no standard for setting compensation levels. Lengthy delays in receiving any compensation are the rule. Exonerees generally don't qualify for the kinds of transition help received by those who released after sentence completion. Instead, they are sent home with little more than a weak apology--even after spending decades in prison.