“I didn’t do it.”
Those words and similarly voiced declarations of innocence are commonly delivered by individuals arrested on criminal charges or incarcerated following a conviction.
And they are just as commonly disparaged by many people on the grounds that wrongdoers frequently protest their punishments for illegal acts that they actually committed.
Notwithstanding persons who lie about their innocence, though, there is ample evidence – some of it incontrovertibly linked to DNA – that does confirm the wrongful convictions of inmates locked away in prisons across the United States.
How many are there?
Sadly, that is impossible for anyone to say with accuracy. Noting the gap in knowledge, a team of university researchers recently conducted a study to find out.
Their specific query: Approximately what percent of inmates serving time across the general prison population (convicted of everything from murder to drug possession) were wrongly convicted and now languish behind bars despite their innocence?
And their answer, derived from scrutinizing information anonymously supplied by about 3,000 prisoners in one state: about 6%.
As a recent article discussing the study notes, some people will conclude from such a number that the criminal justice system is “working pretty well.”
Others, though, will think differently. Extrapolated across the entirety of the U.S. prison population, the 6% figure – if even closely accurate – denotes that scores of thousands of people are unjustly confined in America’s many state and federal prisons.
The subject matter is justifiably sensitive. Moreover, the very fact that any number of innocent people are criminally convicted of crimes spells a harrowing and sad reality.
And it flatly emphasizes the important “presumption of innocence” tenet that guides America’s justice system. Proven criminal defense attorneys know how key that bedrock principle is, and routinely demand that criminal authorities prove every element of alleged wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt.