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Reasons why exonerations increased in the United States in 2016

According to The National Registry of Exonerations, published in March by the University of Michigan, the nation as a whole saw yet another stark increase in exonerations for a number of different crimes in 2016. A preliminary accounting shows that at least 166 defendants in Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and 25 states were exonerated for crimes they'd previously been convicted of.

Among those aforementioned exonerations, at least eight of the defendants had previously been convicted of sexual-related crimes against adults. Another 16 of those offenses had been directed at children.

At least 54 of the defendants exonerated last year had been convicted of homicide and another 15 had been found guilty of violent crimes ranging from attempted murder to arson or robbery. Convicts serving time for nonviolent offenses, such as drug-related offenses, comprised the 73 of the remaining defendants who were ultimately exonerated.

In at least 70 of the cases in which an exoneration was achieved in 2016, it was determined that some type of misconduct on behalf of police investigators or attorneys working on the case had occurred.

At least 74 of the exonerations happened in cases in which the defendant had previously agreed to a plea deal in his or her case. All but 17 of these instances involved pleas in drug-related cases. Another six happened in homicide cases, some of which reportedly involved a false confession. The remaining three cases involved the defendant pleading guilty to a sex abuse crime against a child.

Perhaps most shocking though is that, in at least 94 of the exoneration cases, the case ultimately went the way it did because it was determined that the crime didn't really occur. Nearly 66 percent of those cases involved alleged drug crimes and another 16 cases involved false accusations of sex-related offenses. Just one of the cases involved the exoneration of an individual who had been wrongly convicted of murder.

Wrongful convictions can happen for many reasons. You may have felt pleading to a crime was your only option to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. Alternatively, your legal team may have been ineffective in representing your interests or you may have implicated for a crime you didn't commit. If one of these factors resonates in your own case, then you may benefit from discussing your rights with a Detroit wrongful conviction attorney.

Source: The University of Michigan Law School, "The National Registry of Exonerations," accessed Sep. 21, 2017

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