How Many Innocent People Sentenced To Death in the United States?

If one were to take Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s word on the facts, one might believe that there is only 0.027 percent error rate in our criminal justice system… “or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.” Then again, there is recent evidence to suggest one should fact check his facts before believing them.

One might feel that a 99.973 percent correct conviction rate is acceptable. On the other hand, what if our criminal justice system was right only 95.9 percent of the time in capitol murder cases where the death penalty is used? What if it was even less? Here’s what we know:

If all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely, at least 4.1% would be exonerated.

That according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Just .1 percent of those sentenced to death that have had their sentences reduced to life in prison are exonerated. Fewer resources and energy are put behind exonerating people who are not on death row, and thus a smaller percentage are exonerated.

From Steven Hsieh at the Nation, where I originally found this story.

“The high overturn rate for death sentences is key to the authors’ claim that “the great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated.””

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