DNA Exonerations in the United States

Fast facts:

  • 1989: The first DNA exoneration took place
  • 37: States where exonerations have been won
  • 20 of 347 people exonerated served time on death row
  • 14: Average length of time served by exonerees
  • 4,730: Total number of years served
  • 26.5: Average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful conviction
  • 42: Average age at exoneration
  • 36 of 347: Pled guilty to crimes they did not commit
  • 70%: Involved eyewitness misidentification
  • 46%: Involved misapplication of forensic science
  • 29%: Involved false confessions
  • 17%: Involved informants
  • 254: DNA exonerees compensated  
  • 181:  DNA exonerations worked on by the Innocence Project
  • 149: True suspects and/or perpetrators identified. Those actual perpetrators went on to be convicted of 147 additional violent crimes, including 77 sexual assaults, 35 murders, and 35 other violent crimes while the innocent sat behind bars for their earlier offenses.

Races of the 347 exonerees:

215 African Americans
105 Caucasians
25 Latinos
2 Asian Americans

 

How DNA makes a difference in the criminal justice system

  • Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.
  • In more than 25% of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation (the study, conducted in 1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by FBI labs).
  • An Innocence Project review of our closed cases from 2004 – June 2015 revealed that 29% of cases were closed because of lost or destroyed evidence.