How many innocent people remain behind bars?

Imagine being convicted of a crime you didn't commit. You would likely feel helpless and angry. Sadly, that is the reality for many people in Birmingham and beyond, and a newly compiled list of exonerations is proof that innocent people are living behind bars.

The National Registry of Exonerations was compiled by the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University. It shows that since 1989, when DNA became more commonly used, more than 2,000 people who were convicted of crimes such as murder and rape have been freed from prison.

The list was compiled to help understand why the criminal justice system failed in some instances and what can be done to prevent other innocent people from going to prison.

Experts say that wrongful convictions often occur in cases where witnesses take back previously made statements or in cases where witnesses make incorrect or dishonest statements to begin with. Other cases where individuals were wrongfully convicted involve police corruption.

In the past, after grueling questioning by police, some people even confessed to crimes they didn't commit. In fact, DNA has exonerated some individuals who previously confessed to rape.

Thousands who were wrongfully convicted have been freed from prison, but there are likely many more.

"It's clear that the exonerations we found are the tip of the iceberg," a professor at the University of Michigan Law School said.

This story may give hope to the innocent people who remain incarcerated. For those accused of committing a serious crime, it shows how important a strong criminal defense is. When a person's life is on the line, it is best to rely on an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for an individual's freedom.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Registry tallies over 2,000 wrongful convictions since 1989," David G. Savage, May 20, 2012

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