Approximately 6% of state prisoners across the U.S., many of whom are presumably in Georgia, have been wrongfully convicted, according to a study by researchers at Penn State University. The findings were published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology in April 2018.
Past studies have found that between 3% and 5% of defendants convicted of capital crimes, including rape and murder, are eventually exonerated by DNA testing. However, no one had ever researched the percentage of defendants who are wrongfully convicted of lesser types of crimes, including robbery, assault, theft, and drug possession. To find out, researchers surveyed almost 3,000 Pennsylvania state prisoners and determined that approximately 6% were likely innocent.
The researchers said that they could have asked judges and prosecutors to estimate how many defendants are wrongfully convicted, but they determined those numbers would just be guesses. After all, the only people who truly know if they are innocent or guilty are the defendants. They found that around two-thirds of prisoners took complete responsibility for their crimes, and another 25% took partial responsibility. Only 8% claimed to be completely innocent. Once researchers factored in things like potential prisoner dishonesty, they determined that 6% of prisoners are likely innocent. The study was one of the first of its kind, and the researchers are hoping to replicate it in other states.
People who have been wrongfully accused of a crime might find it advisable to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. While reviewing the case, the attorney might find holes in the prosecution’s evidence that could be used in the client’s favor, which may cause the charges to be dismissed.