Contact: Chris Perry

Telephone: 301-801-0608


New Report Probes Wrongful Convictions of Sexual Assault; Highlights Ongoing Racial Bias

WASHINGTON / February 3, 2016 – Today the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) is releasing a report entitled Wrongful Convictions of Sexual Assault: An Untold Story of Systematic Injustice.  The report is based on 269 wrongful conviction cases cataloged in the National Registry of Exonerations. The White Paper was written to advance our understanding of the problem with wrongful convictions of sexual assault, identify the most common contributing factors, and posit recommendations for reform.

The White Paper notes that rape and sexual assault offenses are the second most common crime giving rise to wrongful convictions, following homicide.  In fact, sexual assault exonerations make up twenty-three percent of all exonerations between 1989 and 2012, due in large part to advances in DNA testing.

The CPI report highlights that the leading cause of wrongful convictions in sexual assault cases is mistaken identification.  Factoring race into the analysis, African Americans are found to be more likely to be misidentified than Caucasians or Hispanics.

False confessions, although they are not as common, can be the most powerful evidence against an accused.  Juries find it extremely difficult to ignore a confession.  Further complicating the issue, analysis of the data shows that of those who provided a false confession, 72.7% were under the age of twenty-five.  In addition to the age of the defendant, this phenomenon is likely due to protracted length of interrogations, interrogation tactics, promises of leniency, ignorance of the law by the accused, and duress.

False accusations and perjury are another common cause of wrongful convictions in sexual assault cases.  Of the 269 cases, 33.8% involved perjury or false accusations by the complainant. For the 178 cases in which false accusations or perjury were absent, only a small percentage of the allegations (12.4%) were made by an acquaintance.  But when false accusations or perjury were involved, the allegation was far more likely (56%) to be made by an acquaintance.

The CPI report offers numerous recommendations to reduce wrongful convictions and secure justice. The White Paper is available here: