Report: Blacks seven-times more likely than whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent | 7/13/2019, 8:47 a.m.
Blacks are seven-times more likely than Whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder.
Jury box Flickr

Sadly, “the time of false convictions isn’t over … wrongful convictions are one of the scourges of our criminal justice system,” Nora V. Demleitner, a Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, told NNPA Newswire.

“Yet, generally we’ll only find out about them for serious crimes with lengthy sentences. And, in those cases, the stakes are sufficiently high for outsiders to become interested and for attorneys to fight,” said Demleitner, who also serves as editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter and the lead author of Sentencing Law and Policy.

Demleitner also sits on the board of the Prison Policy Initiative and the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.

“Even though prosecutors tend to argue that charges are based on the strength of the evidence rather than prior convictions, African-Americans may only come to the police’s attention as potential suspects because of a prior criminal record, however minor,” Demleitner said.

“So, the over-policing of minority neighborhoods that increases the chance for a police encounter likely also contributes to false convictions,” she said.

Dr. Shakti Butler, who consulted on Disney’s Academy Award-winning film, “Zootopia,” and has created widely used educational films and curricula addressing implicit bias and racial equity, told NNPA Newswire that the system continues to be alarmingly and increasingly unfair to African Americans.

“When I see data that speaks, yet again, to the gross inequities that impact Black People in this country my heart breaks,” Butler said.

“Isn’t it clear that data alone changes nothing. Data often validates and hardens perspectives that keep reproducing the status quo … We need action that dismantles systems of oppression and trauma. That action will only begin to take form once we address such uncomfortable questions and issues with vigorous courage, love and respect,” Butler said.

Black people in the United States have never been given a presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system, said Karen Thompson, the Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney.

“Their entire relationship to justice is not a standard of not guilty but one of not guilty yet,” Thompsons said.

To view the report and the various experiences of those exonerated, click here.

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