Black People Are Wrongly Convicted Of Murder More Often, Data Show

Francis Osborne
March 8, 2017

African-American defendants are statistically seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes than white defendants, according to a study released Tuesday. Blacks are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder when the victim is white: "Only about 15% of murders by African Americans have white victims, but 31% of innocent African American murder exonerees were convicted of killing white people".

In addition, the study notes that murder exonerations with black defendants were 22 percent more likely to include misconduct by police officers than those of their white counterparts.

Researchers focused on three types of crimes where blacks were more likely than whites to be exonerated: murder, sexual assault and drug crimes.

The registry report notes that in 94 of the 166 cases, no crime actually occurred and that 74 of the exonerations past year involved guilty pleas - both record numbers.

"In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white", Gross said, as quoted by Reuters.

African-American prisoners who are convicted of murder are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers. While blacks and whites have similar rates of illegal drug use, black people are more likely to be arrested and convicted of such offenses than white people are, researchers found.

The case of Charles - a native of Trinidad and Tobago who still speaks with a thick Caribbean accent and sports a gold tooth and dreadlocks - is typical of the stereotypes and racial prejudice which, to one degree or another, leads plaintiffs, police, judges or juries to convict black men of crimes of which they are innocent, the study by the National Registry of Exonerations said.

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Numerous convictions of African-American murder exonerees were affected by a wide range of types of racial discrimination, from unconscious bias and institutional discrimination to explicit racism.

The year 2016 saw a record 166 exonerations after wrongful convictions, 54 of those in homicide cases.

"Judging from the cases we know, a substantial majority of innocent people who are convicted of crimes in the United States are African Americans", the report declares. Black men were responsible for 13 percent of sexual assault cases involving white victims, but 57 percent of sexual assault exonerees involving a white victim were black. There have been 2,000 known exonerations in the US since 1989.

"It appears that innocent black sexual assault defendants receive harsher sentences than whites if they are convicted, and then face greater resistance to exoneration even in cases in which they are ultimately released", the report reads. On average, black murder exonerees waited three years longer in prison before release than whites, according to the report Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States.

As in past years, Texas leads the country in exonerations, many of them for nonviolent drug crimes. In 2016, in East Cleveland, Ohio, more than 40 defendants' convictions were overturned after three police officers were imprisoned for planting drugs, stealing money, and filing false search warrants. Further, an additional 1,800 of that group that was innocent were framed for major crimes but later cleared in what the study called "group exonerations".

Oddly, many blacks plead guilty to crimes they did not commit: they fear going ahead with a full-blown jury trial and being punished with even more years in prison. It was the third consecutive year with a record number of exonerations. "They nearly get an entirely separate criminal justice system from what is used to police and prosecute low-income communities here in Houston".

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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