Black Americans are seven times more likely than Whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder, sexual crimes, and drug crimes, according to a September 2022 report by the National Registry of Exonerations, as reported on by Reuters, Essence, and The Innocence Project. This report analyzed 3,200 exonerations for the above crimes, dating back to 1989. Fifty-three percent of those exonerated were Black, even though Black Americans are only 13.6 percent of the general population. Furthermore, 33 percent of those exonerated were White. Black Americans were 7.5 times more likely than Whites to be wrongly convicted of murder, eight times more likely to be wrongly convicted of sexual crimes, and a whopping 19 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes.
Black Americans also faced higher degrees of compounding systemic harm. Official misconduct was found in seventy-eight percent of exonerations of Black Americans convicted of murder, while for White Americans that figure was sixty-four percent. In cases of drug-related crimes, approximately sixty-nine percent of those exonerated were Black, and just sixteen percent were White, despite robust evidence that Black and White Americans use illegal drugs at about the same rates. Furthermore, of the 259 exonerated individuals whom law enforcement intentionally framed for drug crimes, eighty-seven percent were Black. Unfortunately this systemic disparity appears to be growing. In 2017 the National Registry of Exonerations published a similar report which found Black Americans were seven times more likely than Whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder, while now that number is 7.5 times.
These findings have received no corporate coverage as of March 10, 2023, other than an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times authored by Christina Swarns, the executive director of the Innocence Project.
“New Report Highlights Persistent Racial Disparities Among Wrongful Convictions,” Innocence Project, September 27, 2022.
Hassan Kanu, “Rising Number of False Convictions Shows Stark Racial Patterns,” Reuters, September 27, 2022.
Melissa Noel, “Study: Black Americans More Likely To Be Wrongfully Convicted,” Essence, September 29, 2022.
Student Researcher: Annie Koruga (Ohlone College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)