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U.S. saw a high number of criminal exonerations in 2013

A recent report indicates that exonerations for false convictions hit a relatively high level last year and that many of these exonerations involved sexual assault cases.

The report was authored by a law professor from the University of Michigan. The statistics in the report came from National Registry of Exonerations data.

According to the report, in 2013, 87 know exonerations were recorded here in the United States. This is the highest annual total the United States has seen in at least two and a half decades. The two types of cases that saw the most exonerations were sexual assault cases and homicide cases. The false conviction causes that showed up the most were false accusations and perjury. There were also a fair number of false convictions where mistaken eyewitness identification or official misconduct played a role.

The report's author speculates that increased willingness by authorities to look into cases after a conviction has been made may be one of the things behind the high number of exonerations. One hopes that, if this is the case, this increased vigilance continues.

An important point that the study's results underscore is that the criminal justice system isn't an error-free environment. There are a variety of different mistakes that can be made in sex crime proceedings and other criminal proceedings. Such mistakes can sometimes have devastating consequences, such as a false conviction.

This is one of the reasons why having strong legal representation can be of high importance for individuals accused of criminal activity, such as sex crimes. Experienced criminal defense attorneys can take steps to defend a person's rights in criminal proceedings, watch for potential errors in the proceedings and take steps to try to address potentially impactful errors that are detected.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Criminal Exonerations at All-Time High," Jacob Gershman, Feb. 4, 2014

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