Before DNA testing was widely available, establishing guilt in a sex offense wasn’t just a matter of testing bodily fluids. Instead, much of the evidence used to convict suspects included things like eyewitness testimony and identification—things that aren’t error proof. According to a new study from the Urban Institute, numerous convictions during this time may have been in error.
The Urban Institute looked at sex assault cases between 1973 and 1987. They found as many as 33 people convicted of such assaults during that time are likely innocent. This is a wrongful conviction rate of 8 to 15%, an astronomical figure when you are talking about the damage done to these people’s lives.
The Urban Institute admits there was a single flaw with their research—they ran out of time on the contract before they could review additional courthouse case files. But even with this missed step, their study is said to be one of the most in depth ever undertaken.
“This is the most methodologically sound study that’s been done and the rate is much higher than has been shown in other studies,” says Jon Gould, director of the Washington Institute for Public and International Affairs Research at American University.
The lead researcher in the project, John Roman, says that even had they been able to follow up in the courthouse research, not many (if any) of the 33 suspected innocence cases would have been eliminated.
This is the first study of its kind where every single similar case was tested in the sample, providing a potentially much more accurate picture than studies of years gone by.
The files of these cases have been transferred to the jurisdictions where the convictions occurred. What will happen next is anyone’s guess. Many of these defendants have likely moved on with their lives—as much as possible with a sex offense conviction on their records. Because the state doesn’t reveal who has been tested (only releasing DNA evidence or information to other law enforcement bodies), we don’t know how many, if any of these convicted persons are still incarcerated.
Whether you are accused of rape or something like theft, you want to know that everything possible is done to lessen the likelihood that you will go to prison. This is especially true if you are innocent. But even when you admit some level of guilt, you have rights.
Contact our attorneys today to discuss your rights and what can be done to minimize the effects of your criminal case on your life.