Death Penalty

185 Americans Wrongly Sentenced to Death Have Been Freed in the Last Half-Century

For every 8.3 executions in the United States, one innocent person on death row has been exonerated.


NEXT: Brickbat: Reckless Driving

Death Penalty Prisons Sentencing Innocence Project

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

31 responses to “185 Americans Wrongly Sentenced to Death Have Been Freed in the Last Half-Century

  1. The system works! Sure, you spent 10 years on Death Row but eventually they let you go didn’t they?

    1. These are 2 pay checks $78367 and $87367. that i received in last 2 months. I am very happy that i can make thousands in my part time and now i am enjoying my life.KJH Everybody can do this and earn lots of dollars from home in very short time period. Just visit this website now. Open this web…… WorkJoin1

      1. Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…FGh And i get surly a check of $12600 what’s awesome is I m working from home so I get more time with my kids.

        Try it, you won’t regret it!……………PAYPAL PAYS

        1. Sarah getting Paid up to $18953 in the week, working on-line at home. I’m full time Student. I shocked when my sister’s told me about her check that was $97k. It’s very easy to do.QEd everytyybody will get this job. Go to home media tab for additional details……

          So I started………

  2. 185 Americans Wrongly Sentenced to Death Have Been Freed in the Last Half-Century
    For every 8.3 executions in the United States, one innocent person on death row has been exonerated.

    Yeah, but no. “Wrongly sentenced to death” means “should not have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” That includes folk who (a) definitely didn’t do it, (b) folk who probably didn’t do it, and (c) folk who probably did do it but that can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The vast majority of people whose “wrongful convictions” are overturned fall into categories (b) and (c) – so it is quite wrong to claim they have been “exonerated.” On the whole the courts do not attempt “exoneration” – they attempt to find you guilty, with a high bar of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Exoneration and acquittal are different ideas. This is a good thing – none of us would want to have to pass a hurdle as high as “exoneration” to be allowed to go on our way.

    Very occasionally, the court procedure will discover convincing evidence that X did it instead of Y, or that Y was in a California prison at the time, so that Y may really be said to have been “exonerated.”

    But generally, as in the headline and subheadline here, “exonerated” is tendentiously conflated with “found to have been wrongly convicted.”

    1. Technically – exonerate means freed of or released from a burden. Pretty certain death penalty constitutes a burden. As does the onus (same root) of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

      1. Seriously paycheck of $19632 and all i was doing is to copy and paste work onlgrine. this home work makes me able to generate more cash daily easily. simple to do work and regular income from this are just superb. Here what i am doing.

        Try now………………

    2. The article doesn’t mention category (d) — people who probably weren’t guilty but were executed anyway.

      Given the news coverage and the years taken to overturn obvious mistaken convictions, I’m guessing that category (c) types who were guilty but are allowed to walk is vanishingly small.

    3. Lee Moore you are completely wrong. It is almost impossible for a factually innocent person to be exonerated in the U.S. There is a very low burden of proof for conviction, and once convicted the burden of proof to show innocence is extremely high. There are many thousands of imprisoned people who can show compelling evidence they are not guilty, and who certainly would not be convicted at a retrial, but who have no means to deal with the games prosecutors are empowered to play.

      1. The burden of proof for conviction is supposed to be high. And I think it is high in most cases – especially if you are rich or famous, or have a powerful support group in the community.

        But I would agree that the burden of proof is low if the community is convinced of your guilt, and angrily wants you convicted.

        My understanding is that the appeal against a conviction is decided on legal technicalities. The appellate judges assume that the trial court reliably determined the facts of the case, so what matters to them is whether or not any legal errors were committed. Compelling evidence of innocence is therefore irrelevant to them.

  3. But it is still ok to execute innocents as long as they are Afghani children and Sloppy Joe is the one giving the orders.

  4. One of these days you might care about the million or so innocent murdered every year, but I doubt it. Much better to demand the abolition of law because some Democrat lawyers are more ambitious than compassionate.

  5. Does the video mention corrupt procecuters that falsify evidence? Until scum like kamala are executed this will keep happening.

    *kamala falsified DNA evidence to keep someone she didn’t like on death row

    1. Not letting Kammy get away with murder is racist.

      1. And sexist too!

  6. QI sucks; TI is worse.

  7. if that number is correct I’m too appalled to finish this

  8. No words in a article? This could be an exciting new trend for Reason.

    1. Literacy is so overrated.

  9. “Missippi dentist Michael West testified that the bite marks he found on the victim’s body matched Howard’s teeth. That evidence is no longer considered reliable”

    Not false, just no longer reliable. Sounds like he was released due to a change in evidentiary standards, not necessarily because he was innocent.

    1. Reason has run several articles critical of forensic science being mostly bullshit.

      1. Reason has run several articles critical of forensic science being mostly bullshit.

        Trust the science we tell you to trust.

        1. It sounds like you’re commenting without knowing much about forensic science? There never was any evidence to support bite mark forensic evidence. And by bite mark, it means post-mortem soft tissue trauma that some self-declared expert thought was a bite belonging to a specific human. The science hasn’t changed. It’s just in the past some stuff was submitted as science / evidence without any proof that it works, and it is has been thoroughly proven that it doesn’t.

      2. Just pointing out that standards of evidence change.

  10. “For every 8.3 executions in the United States, one innocent person on death row has been exonerated.”

    Based upon comments by left wing Democrats during the past four decades, most Americans likely believe the ratio is closer to 2 executions for every person on death row who has been exonerated.

    Although I’ve vehemently opposed the death penalty for decades (except perhaps for mass murderers and traitors), it’s nice to find out that the overwhelming majority of Americans on death row were guilty of charged.

    1. >>the overwhelming majority of Americans on death row were guilty of charged.

      alternatively a 12% error rate might be high considering the end result.

  11. We had a case here in MO where they convicted a guy of murder, and later it turns out that the police fed crime scene details to their one ‘witness’, and the prosecutor paid / manipulated two others who had originally stated that they hadn’t seen anything at all. On top of that, they withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.

    All of this ended up on appeal to the state supreme court with an eventual ‘actually innocent’ type exoneration – which are rare as can be here – about a decade after the original conviction. Meanwhile, the police detectives retired with a fat publicly funded pension, and the corrupt-as-hell prosecutor was made a judge.

  12. apparently one of the jan 6 protesters didnt have to be sentenced to death for taking part in an ‘insurrection’. he died in prison ..
    libertarian moment?

    1. well… dies awaiting trial anyhow
      cant say for sure if he was out at the time – should have checked..

      It is with a heavy heart that I write these words. My client, John Anderson, a kind man I have gotten to know and care about over this past year, has passed away…

      We have not been at liberty to publicly discuss the case and his defense before our trial date, per court rules. John’s hope and agony over this past year have been trying to clear his name. This hope lives on past his untimely demise. It remains my hope and the hope of his family.

      Attorney Marina Medvin

  13. Anniversaries are the perfect time to remember why we are there. Remember why we keep trying, why we care so much and why we want to keep doing it. It’s finding your reflection in the eyes of the person you love and realizing the smile in your face.
    It is a moment to look back on time and see the road traveled with all the willingness to keep walking that same stretch, to keep walking by their side.

  14. What about the innocent people on Death Row who died before the sentence was carried out? Possibly murdered while incarcerated. But even if they died of natural causes, they wouldn’t necessarily have died had they not been incarcerated. Being confined to a tiny cell can’t be that healthy.