The report, released Wednesday, said 149 people were exonerated last year; they spent 14 and a half years on average in prison. It continues:
Fifty-eight of those exonerated in 2015 were defendants in homicide cases, more than two-thirds were minorities, and about half were African American. Of 47 drug-related exonerations, another record, 42 pleaded guilty in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston.
Additionally, the report said, 27 exonerations were for convictions based on false confessions—22 of them in homicide cases. And, of 58 homicide exonerations, 44 involved official misconduct by authorities.
In 2014, the record for exonerations was set at 139. Since the formation of the database in 1989, 1,733 cases have been reported. The top three states featuring the highest amount of exonerations were Texas (54), New York (17), and Illinois (13).
“Increasingly, prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys are acknowledging the systemic problem of wrongful convictions,” said Samuel Gross, a professor of law at the University of Michigan who wrote the report. “That’s a welcome change, but it’s just a start. We’ve only begun to address this problem systematically.”
This week, the oldest man on Georgia’s death row was executed early Wednesday after numerous appeals to the Supreme Court were denied. Brandon Astor Jones, 72, was convicted of murder in the death of a convenience store manager in a botched robbery in 1979.
Jones’ execution was the fifth this year in the country and the second in Georgia.