Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-333


On Wrongful Conviction Day, CPI Calls on Lawmakers to Address the Root Causes of a Travesty of Justice

WASHINGTON / October 2, 2019 – Today is Wrongful Conviction Day, and over 30 events are being held around the country to highlight the plight of persons who are convicted of a crime they did not commit (1).  To date, 2,499 persons have been exonerated in the United States. The most recent exoneree is Larry Roberts, convicted in 2007 for murder and sentenced to life without parole. Two weeks ago, Roberts was acquitted by a jury, based on evidence of witness misidentification, and immediately released from prison (2).

Last December, Congress enacted the First Step Act, breakthrough legislation that was designed to reduce lengthy sentences for persons who had committed a non-violent crime. But far less attention has been paid to addressing the root causes of wrongful convictions in order to prevent such problems.

The National Registry of Exonerations has identified five factors that are known to contribute to wrongful convictions (3):

  1. Perjury or False Accusation – Present in 58% of wrongful conviction cases
  2. Official Misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement – 54% of cases
  3. Mistaken Witness Identification – 28% of cases
  4. False or Misleading Forensic Evidence – 23% of cases
  5. False confession – 12% of cases

Underlying these factors is a problem known as “confirmation bias,” in which investigators, prosecutors, and jury members reach a premature and faulty determination of guilt (4).

Confirmation bias is worsened by new investigative approaches that are known as “Start By Believing” and “trauma-informed.” Start By Believing instructs detectives to begin with a presumption of guilt; and trauma-informed posits that a complainant’s testimony is presumptively truthful, even when it defies plausibility or contradicts other persons’ testimony (5).

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) urges lawmakers to enact legislation to restore fairness, due process, and the presumption of innocence to our criminal justice system.