Report: States exonerate 2,000 people in last 23 years
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Report: States exonerate 2,000 people in last 23 years

Az had 11; Illinois, New York, Texas had the most

The University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law on Monday released the first national registry of exoneration cases with data on more than 2,000 cases from the last 23 years. 

The report's lead authors said the project is an unprecedented examination of the scope of wrongful convictions that shows they are far more prevalent than once thought. In Texas, according to the report, there have been 87 exonerations involving crimes ranging from robbery to murder. Only Illinois, with 110, and New York, with 88, had more.

Arizona had 11 exoneration cases: six in Pima County, four in Maricopa County, and one in Yavapai County, according to the national registry.

"It used to be that almost all the exonerations we knew about were murder and rape cases. We're finally beginning to see beyond that," Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, editor of the registry and an author of the report, said in a news release. "This is a sea change."

The report, which includes an online searchable database with details on about nearly 900 of the exonerations, details for the first time wrongful convictions in 58 cases involving drugs, taxes, white-collar and other nonviolent crimes;102 exonerations for child sex abuse convictions; and 129 exonerations of defendants who were convicted of crimes that never happened.

The authors created a separate category for group exonerations, which includes cases of massive law enforcement corruption in Dallas and in Tulia that led to more than 40 exonerations.

The authors note, however, that their work does not encompass all of the wrongful convictions that have happened in the last two decades. Many more cases, they wrote, are probably undiscovered as the wrongfully convicted remain behind bars, die in prison or lack the money to prove their innocence.

They point to the numbers. For instance, in Dallas County, with about 2.4 million people, there have been 36 exonerations. Meanwhile, Bexar County, where the population exceeds 1.7 million, has had none.

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"No matter how tragic they are, even 2,000 exonerations over 23 years is a tiny number in a country with 2.3 million people in prisons and jails. If that were the extent of the problem we would be encouraged by these numbers. But it's not. These cases merely point to a much larger number of tragedies that we do not know about," the report states.

We've created (above) from the report a graph showing the types of exoneration cases in Texas, based on the type of crime for which each exoneree was wrongfully convicted. And below is a list of all the Texas exonerees. View the full report here.

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Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

Michael Morton stands in a Williamson County, Texas, courtroom with his attorneys, John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick, and Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project. Morton was officially exonerated Dec. 19, after spending nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder.