Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


40% of Wrongful Convictions Involve Police Investigative Misconduct Targeting Black Male Defendants. Police Chiefs Urged to Drop ‘Victim-Centered’ Program

WASHINGTON / February 19, 2021 – A review of recent wrongful convictions reveals 40.3% involved investigative misconduct by police officers that was directed against Black male defendants. The analysis is based on publicly available data compiled by the National Registry of Exonerations for the years 2018 to 2020 (1).

Following are the year-by-year numbers:

  • 2018: 39.5% (2)
  • 2019: 37.5% (3)
  • 2020: 43.3% (4)

The wrongful convictions arose from five types of police investigative misconduct: concealment of evidence, fabrication of evidence, witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, or making false statements at trial (5).

A recent article in the New York Times recounts how investigators used deceptive methods to coerce a false confession from Huwe Burton. After Burton’s mother had been fatally stabbed, the 16-year-old Black boy was subjected to a lengthy interrogation. “Two hours into the roughly six-hour interrogation, Detective Viggiano started to bluff the teenager, pretending there was evidence that he was the killer,” the NYT article reports (6).

In 1991, Huwe Burton was convicted of murder and received a 15-year-to-life sentence. He was exonerated in 2019 (7).

Ethics codes admonish police officers to conduct investigations that are impartial, fair, and honest (8).  In a recent New York appellate decision, Judge Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald issued a rebuke of guilt-presuming investigative methods: “An impartial investigation performed by bias-free investigators is the substantive foundation” of a legal proceeding (9).

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is calling on the International Association of Chiefs of Police to suspend an upcoming program designed to promote “victim-centered” investigations (10). Such guilt-presuming “victim-centered” methods worsen the problem of wrongful convictions and have disparate effects on Black male defendants.

Interested persons should contact Vincent Talucci, Executive Director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, at , or telephone: 703-836-6767.


  2. 68 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 172 total exonerations = 39.5%
  3. 59 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 152 total exonerations = 38.8%
  4. 52 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 120 total exonerations = 43.3%