Criminal Justice

Registry of Exonerations Lists Those Who Were Wrongly Convicted

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It's easy enough to find registries full of names of people who have been convicted of crimes, including such acts as pissing in a parking lot. You can even find online databases of mugshots where you can vote on the hotness of the accused (go find 'em yourself). But now we have a registry of people who were convicted of crimes they didn't commit, before finally proving their innocence. The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law featuring "all known exonerations in the United States since 1989."

Right now, the registry features 901 exonerations for convictions ranging in seriousness from drug possession to murder. The sentences hanging over the heads of these innocents included everything up to and including the death penalty. The registry is browsable both in summary format and in a detailed view, by name, crime, sentence, year of conviction, year of exoneration, whether or not DNA evidence was involved, and other helpful factors for parsing a list of terrible errors.

Among the entries currently featured on the site are the following:

Frank O'Connell

Frank O'Connell
State:
CA
Date of Exoneration: 6/11/2012
In 1985, in Los Angeles County, California, Frank O'Connell was convicted of murder based on eyewitness testimony and an ambiguous dying declaration by the victim. He was exonerated in 2012 after the key eyewitness admitted he could never recognize the killer, and it was discovered that police hid evidence of other suspects and improperly influenced the identification procedure. [Photograph: Diane Bladecki]

David Lee Gavitt

David Lee Gavitt
State: MI
Date of Exoneration: 6/5/2012
In 1986, David Lee Gavitt was sentenced to life without parole for arson and murder, after barely escaping a home fire that killed his wife and two young daughters. On June 5, 2012, he was exonerated after new analysis of evidence from the fire found no proof that it was deliberately set. Experts concluded that the original investigators had relied on a mix of junk science and "arson myths," and that one investigator misread the results of the tests he performed.

Yeah … Listing the names and stories of those who rotted behind bars by mistake doesn't exactly give them back those lost years. But it at least pays tribute to what they went through — and gives them someplace to which to point if they ever need to explain those missing chunks of their lives.