Friday, April 3, 2020

National Registry of Exonerations 2019 report: (Part Two): Basic patterns underlying the 143 exonerations (an average of 13.3 years per person) of particular interest to this Blog.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Although the report is only 17 pages long,  the reality it exposes is immense -"a record number of years lost to prison by defendants exonerated for crimes they did not commit—1,908 years in total for 143 exonerations, an average of 13.3 years lost per exoneree." That's just the numbers. These are flesh and blood human beings exposed to loss of their liberty, separation from their friends and families, the stigma of conviction, the cruelty and danger (particularly today) of confinement in prison, and so much more.  Reading through these "basic patterns"  common to the exonerations  and the prominence that flawed or misleading forensics  and related issues plays in them, reminds me that the same patterns exist not only in Canada but in many other jurisdictions throughout the world.   Kudos to the National Registry for the phenomenal work that it does.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.


It is a reminder to me of how much more work there is to be done.a record number of years lost to prison by defendants exonerated for crimes they did not commit—1,908 years in total for 143 exonerations, an average of 13.3 years lost per exoneree.
Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog:

Link to the 2019 National Registry of exonerations report:



Official Misconduct: Ninety-three exonerations in 2019 involved official misconduct. Official Misconduct encompasses a wide range of behavior—from police officers threatening witnesses, to forensic analysts falsifying test results, to prosecutors hiding evidence of innocence.

False Confessions: Twenty-four cases involved false confessions; all but six were exon- erations from convictions for homicide. Three exonerees falsely confessed to murder and rape, and ultimately took a plea deal that allowed them to plead guilty to sexual assault. Two exonerees falsely confessed to arson and related crimes, but ultimately pled guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. In one case, the exoneree falsely confessed to sexual assault following an interrogation that occurred after he had taken medication that affected his ability to understand what was happening.

No-Crime Cases: Fifty exonerations in 2019 were cases in which we now know that no crime even occurred. The largest group of no-crime exonerations involved drug crimes in which police planted drugs (18/50), but seven child sex abuse exonerations, five sexual assaults exonerations, and seven homicide exonerations were also no-crime cases (five murder and two manslaughter). The remaining 13 included exonerations for crimes such as sex offender registration violationsweapons offensesrobbery, and assault.

Perjury or False Accusation: One hundred and one exonerations included witnesses who committed perjury or otherwise falsely accused the defendant, including 57 mur- ders, eight cases of child sex abuse, eight sexual assaults, and 17 drug crimes. The remaining cases covered a range of charges, including robbery, burglary, and attempted murder. In 39 of the 101 cases, the exoneree was falsely accused of a crime that never occurred. Of those, 14 were cases involving the Sgt. Watts scandal in Chicago.

Mistaken Witness Identification: Forty-eight cases included mistaken witness identi- fication, 12 of which involved cross-racial identification, a significant risk factor for misidentification. Thirty-three of the 48 involved murderattempted murder, or man- slaughterSix involved sexual assault, six involved robbery, one involved child sex abuse, one involved drug possession, and one was for burglary/unlawful entry.

False or Misleading Forensic Evidence: Twenty-four cases involved false or misleading forensic evidence. Sixteen were for murder or manslaughterThree involved child sexual abuse and one involved sexual assault of an adult. Two conspiracy convictions were tainted by forensic error in underlying arson charges. One involved a drug conviction, and one a robbery.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."
Lawyer Radha Natarajan:
Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;