In New York in 2016, 14 people were exonerated for crimes they did not commit. African-Americans may be more likely to be wrongly convicted of a crime, according to a study that was released on March 7. The study, performed by the National Registry of Exonerations, looked at data from 1989 to 2016 and found that 47 percent of the 1,900 people exonerated were African-American. This is three times their population in the country. African-Americans were 12 times more likely to face wrongful conviction in drug crimes and seven times more likely to face a wrongful murder conviction compared to whites.
The National Registry of Exonerations also reported in a separate study that a record number of exonerations since 1989 occurred in 2016 with 166. More than one-third of those were in Texas where district attorneys in the Houston and Dallas areas have established integrity units to investigate potentially false convictions. Illinois had the second-highest number of exonerations of all states with 16.
More than 70 exonerations were for drug possession, and these were mostly in in Harris County, Texas where Houston is located. In many of these drug possession cases, defendants did not contest the charges. Later, when the substances that were seized from those defendants were tested, it was found that they were not illegal.
When people are charged with drug crimes, they may be pressured to plea bargain. They might be concerned about resolving the situation as quickly as possible in order to take care of family members or avoid losing a job. However, they may want to discuss their situation with an attorney. In addition to potentially facing charges for possessing substances that are not illegal, there could be other issues, such as a violation of their rights during the search, that could lead to dismissal of the charges.