Black people are being falsely convicted of serious crimes at alarming rates, report finds

Black people in the U.S. are seven times more likely to be falsely convicted of a serious crime like murder than white people, according to a new report published Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations. The finding was based on an analysis of exonerations for serious crimes in the U.S. over the last four decades, which found that Black people make up less than 14% of the U.S. population, but account for 53% of exonerations in the country.

“[The report] focuses on how it’s dangerous, in a particularly disturbing way, that there’s a possibility of being convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor and the lead author of the report, titled Race and Wrongful Convictions 2022, told Yahoo News. “The general conclusion is no surprise. Black people are much more likely to get the short end of the stick than white people.”

Data gathered from exonerations for murder, sexual assault and drug crimes from 1989 through August 2022 highlighted significant challenges in obtaining national criminal justice statistics, including finding clear answers on who reports data to whom and how this data is disseminated to react to trends. Most often, Gross says, counties are responsible for reporting crimes, not states, which results in misreporting and/or a lack of accountability because of sheer volume.