American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 4 (2015)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Wrongful conviction is a serious dilemma for the criminal-justice system. A joint investigation by the Better Government Association and the Center on Wrongful Convictions tracked exonerations from 1989 through 2010 and identified 85 people who were wrongfully incarcerated.1 Not only were those 85 lives unfairly affected in serious ways due to the incarceration, but the actual perpetrators continued on crime sprees that went on to include 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults, 10 kidnappings, and at least 62 other felonies.2

The reversal of false convictions is becoming more frequent.3 However, scholars have asserted that the exonerations that do occur are probably a small fraction of actual wrongful convictions. Gross and colleagues pointed out that “[o]ur legal system places great weight on the finality of criminal convictions. Courts and prosecutors are exceedingly reluctant to reverse judgments or reconsider closed cases; when they do—and it’s rare—it’s usually because of a compelling showing of error.”4 Therefore, in order for a wrongful conviction to be overturned, these cases must undergo a lengthy appeals process.