In 2015, in New Jersey and all other states, a record number of incarcerated individuals were exonerated for crimes they did not actually commit. Popular opinion is that shows like “Making a Murderer” on Netflix may have led to increased attention by the public on the topic of false convictions.
According to the Huffington Post, 2015 was a year unlike any in history in that 149 people were exonerated for crimes they were not guilty of. This number has steadily risen for the last decade, perhaps in part because technology has advanced, and DNA testing has become more accessible. Of those people who were released, they had served an average of 14.5 years in jail or prison.
The Innocence Project lists several factors that contribute to the large number of false convictions in the United States. According to research, there may be more than one contributing factor in a case. Eyewitness misidentification is the most common and was present in 235 cases. Unvalidated or improper forensics was also a large problem in 154 cases. Informants and snitches affected 48 cases and false admissions, or confessions affected 88 cases.
One problem with convictions is that DNA evidence is often destroyed or lost after a conviction, so when a new lead opens there is little to no forensic evidence. Without DNA evidence, it can be extremely difficult for a wrongfully convicted individual to prove their innocence.
Those who have been accused of committing a crime benefit from reaching out to a criminal defense lawyer to avoid these problems. With thousands of people serving sentences for crimes they did not commit it is vital that every individual has a solid defense heading into their trial.