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Why A Wrongful Conviction Is More Likely For Black People Than Whites

The reasons are accidental, systematic and even intentional, according to a new study.
Posted at 11:15 AM, Mar 08, 2017

new study sheds light on why black people are more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Researchers with The National Registry of Exonerations found innocent black people are seven times more likely to be convicted of murder, 12 times more likely in drug crimes and 3.5 times more likely in sexual assault cases than innocent white people.

The reasons range from accidental, to systematic and even intentional.

When it comes to murders, the researchers point to an already high murder rate in the black community. They say, "If the real criminal is black, anybody who is mistakenly convicted for that crime will almost inevitably be black as well."

But that's only part of the story. The researchers also found wrongful murder convictions against black defendants were 22 percent more likely to involve police misconduct.

The researchers also say police are more likely to strongly enforce drug laws against black people, despite evidence black and white populations use illegal drugs at pretty equal rates.

Since 1989, over 1,800 defendants were cleared of drug crimes after it was proved that officers framed them. The majority of those exonerated were black.

But some causes of the racial disparity can be accidental. That issue is frequently seen in sexual assault cases, which often rely on eyewitness testimony.

Research has shown that people are better at recognizing faces of those of the same race.

And while only a small portion of sexual assaults in the U.S. involve a black man and a white woman, they make up half of the sexual assault cases where an eyewitness misidentification led to the conviction.

The exonerations researchers also note across the different types of crimes, black people receive longer prison sentences on average and face greater resistance in proving their innocence.