Hundreds of U.S. inmates sentenced to death are innocent, researchers say
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Chicago Tribune/Reuters
Posted: May 5th, 2014
As many as 300 people who were sentenced to death in the United States over a three-decade period were likely innocent. Dozens of defendants sentenced to death in recent years have been exonerated before their sentences could be carried out, but many more were probably falsely convicted, said University of Michigan professor Samuel Gross, the study's lead author. "Our research adds the disturbing news that most innocent defendants who have been sentenced to death have not been exonerated," Gross wrote in the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their research, Gross and his colleagues examined the 7,482 U.S. death sentence convictions between 1973 and 2004. Of those, 117 had been exonerated in recent years, thanks to the efforts of numerous groups and a tide of public attention to issues surrounding the death penalty. Gross and his co-authors ... estimated that about 4 percent of those sentenced to death were actually innocent, nearly three times the number exonerated during that period. Once inmates' sentences are commuted to life, they are far less likely to be exonerated, mostly because there are fewer legal resources given to their cases, Gross said. "If you were never sentenced to death, you never had the benefit - if you call it a benefit - of that process," he said. Although the study focuses on a period ending 10 years ago, the percentage of false death sentence convictions likely holds true today, Gross said.
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