In January 2021 the ABA Journal published an article called ‘Reckoning with Wrongful Convictions: Lessons Learned from an Examination of 25 Wrongful Convictions in Brooklyn, New York‘ written by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
In the above-mentioned article, DA Gonzalez summarizes the report “426 Years: An Examination of 25 Wrongful Convictions in Brooklyn, New York.” That report, a collaboration with the Innocence Project and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP (WilmerHale) analyzes “20 cases—involving 25 convicted persons—from 2014 through the first half of 2019. In the aggregate, the people whose convictions are examined in the report served approximately 426 years under the sentences meted out following their convictions.”
The report points to avoidable mistakes, bias, tunnel-vision, and misconduct that can lead to wrongful convictions. I quote part of the conclusion here: “The root causes identified by the CRU [Conviction Review Unit]—induced false or unreliable confessions, eyewitness misidentifications, withholding of favorable evidence, and inadequate defenses, among others—are all preventable.”
The eight most common exoneration factors are:
- False or unreliable confessions
- Eyewitness misidentifications
- Significant witness credibility issues
- Nondisclosure of favorable evidence
- Police conduct
- Prosecutor conduct
- Defense conduct
- New evidence and expert consultations
Point number 8 plays a huge role with modern technology that was not around at the time of arrest or conviction, such as phenotyping and forensic genealogy. As you will recall from many articles here about wrongful convictions, I support access to pre-trial evidence for post-conviction testing with modern technology most notably, DNA.
The report can be found online, link here. From page 82 onwards, you can find summaries of the cases that were explored. The oldest dates back to 1963.