. MICHIGAN STUDY: BLACK MEN ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE FALSELY IMPRISONED FOR RΑPE
Reported by April Taylor
The National Registry of Exonerations is a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the School of Law at Northwestern University that exposes the stories of people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit and have been released. Blackvoicenews.com reported on the most recent publication of exonerations and revealed some startling statistics.
According to the study, the percentage of black people who are jailed for crimes they did not commit make up more of the percentage of exonerations than they did in 1989. In 1989, blacks accounted for 47 percent of all known exonerees (even though they are only 13% of the population), and in 2012, that number had risen to 57 percent, making them far more likley to be falsely accused than whites. Samuel Gross, who is a law professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, finds the 10 percent jump intriguing but cautions that the increase will have to continue consistently in the next set of data before it can be considered a trend.
One of the statistics that paints a clearer picture of what is going on behind these numbers deal with rαpe. Rαpe has had a long history of being prosecuted against blacks in a discriminatory manner. Twenty five percent of prisoners who were prosecuted for rαpe were black, but blacks make up 62 percent of the people who were exonerated on rαpe charges. Gross points out that this could be due to faulty eye witness identifications that stem from the fact that “white people don’t have the type of experience living with and distinguishing members of other races as minorities do.” He also points out that it could be due to a history of racial discrimination when it comes to black men raping white women.
On a positive note, the use of post-conviction DNA testing is contributing to more wrongfully convicted inmates being exonerated. Evolving law enforcement practices and better oversight of prosecutors is also helping. As Gross points out, “It’s pretty clear that we make mistakes as you would expect from any human system…the more realistic we are in understanding that we do mistakes the better we’ll be at identifying them and preventing them.