by Frederick H. Lowe -thenorthstarnews.com
The National Registry of Exonerations, which reported that there were 87 recorded exonerations last year, said that black defendants are over-represented among the wrongfully convicted.
Of the 1,281 individual exonerations from January 1989 through December 2013, 47 percent or 598 were African American; 40 percent or 513 were white; 11 percent or 147 were Hispanic and 2 percent or 23 were Native American or Asian.
“Black defendants continue to be over-represented among exonerees, particularly in sexual assault, robbery and drug cases. As we noted last year, the disparity is greatest in sexual assault cases. Black defendants constitute 25 percent of prisoners incarcerated for rape, but 61 percent of those exonerated for such crimes,” reported the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University Law School.
The Exoneration Project reported that 46 percent of African Americans were exonerated for homicide; 61 percent were exonerated for sexual assault; 25 percent were exonerated for child sex abuse; 69 percent were exonerated for attempted murder; 58 percent were exonerated for robbery; 38 percent were exonerated for other violent crimes; 55 percent were exonerated for drug crimes and 59 percent were exonerated for other non-violent crimes from January 1989 through December 2013.
The Registry now lists 1,304 exonerations from 1989 to February 3, 2014.
Andrew Johnson, a black man, was exonerated for rape and burglary by DNA evidence in 2013 after being wrongfully convicted of the crimes in 1989 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
A woman, who Johnson had been drinking and smoking marijuana with earlier, accused him of breaking into her house and raping her. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Johnson denied that he broke into the woman’s home and raped her although she claimed he did.
The Rocky Mountain Innocence Project took on Johnson’s case. In 2013, DNA tests excluded Johnson as the perpetrator, as DNA evidence from the rape kit proved that the woman’s abusive boyfriend attacked her.
The Laramie County District Attorney’s Office later dismissed all of the charges Johnson, the first person acquitted by DNA evidence in Wyoming.
The National Registry of Exonerations noted that DNA exonerations dropped from 23 in 2005 to 18 in 2013. At the same time, the number of non-DNA exonerations rose from 34 in 2005 to 69 in 2013.
Texas, Illinois, New York, Washington and California were the leading states with exonerations in 2013. There were 13 exonerations in Texas, 9 in Illinois, 8 in New York, 7 in Washington and 6 in California.