National Registry of Exonerations reports record number of exonerations in 2015

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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A record number of defendants were exonerated in 2015 according to a report released Feb. 3 by the National Registry of Exonerations (NRE).

There were 149 defendants exonerated in 2015, 58 of which were convicted of homicide. They are in 29 states, the District of Columbia, federal courts and Guam, according to the report. Of those exonerated for homicide, 4 were convicted of manslaughter and 54 were for murder. There were 47 defendants exonerated of drug possession.

Since 1989, there have been 1,733 known exonerations in the United States, as reported by NRE.

The reasons for exonerations fall into a few categories. Twenty-seven exonerations were for convictions based on false confessions; 65 were for official misconduct, which is a record; 65 were on guilty pleas. The majority were drug cases, and eight were homicide, both of which included false confessions.

Seventeen percent of the exonerations were based on DNA identification evidence. Seventy-five exonerations were cases in which no crime actually occurred, according to the report.

The NRE is a project of the University of Michigan School of Law.

[Elizabeth A. Elliott, is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Contact her at]

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