Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Report Examines Georgia's Wrongful Convictions of 20 Innocent Men Who Collectively Spent Nearly 170 Years in Prison for Crimes They Did Not Commit

/PRNewswire/ -- A new report released today by The Justice Project analyzes the cases of twenty innocent Georgians who collectively spent nearly 170 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Convicting the Innocent in Georgia: Stories of Injustice and the Reforms that Can Prevent Them also presents Georgia with common sense solutions that must be implemented to improve the quality of evidence used in criminal cases and reduce the risk of wrongful convictions.

While DNA evidence can determine guilt or innocence with a great degree of certainty, biological and DNA evidence is only available in a small number of cases. In fact, only seven of the twenty men highlighted is this report were exonerated by DNA testing. While non-DNA exonerations are more difficult to prove, they are similar to DNA cases in that they trace back to the same flawed procedures in need of reform.

Adopting non-DNA related reforms is vital to increasing the fairness and accuracy of Georgia's criminal justice system. In fact, issues like mistaken eyewitness testimony and false informant testimony are shown to be leading causes of wrongful convictions. Until Georgia enacts the practical reforms outlined in this report, its criminal justice system will remain prone to error.

Among the report's key findings:

-- Twenty innocent Georgians spent roughly 169 years in prison for crimes
they did not commit. The average length of incarceration was eight
-- Mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful
conviction in the highlighted cases, playing a role in half of the
defendant's cases.
-- Other factors leading to Georgia wrongful convictions include: false
testimony from informants or accomplices, flawed forensic science,
suppression of exculpatory evidence, and inadequate defense counsel.

The full report is available at www.TheJusticeProject.org.

The report details the enormous impact wrongful convictions have on innocent people, as well as the entire community. For the innocent person, prison is a terrifying experience, and the time spent in prison causes tremendous loss. Public safety is also put at risk when an innocent person is convicted. The investigation stops and the true perpetrator remains uninvestigated, unpunished, and free to commit more crimes.

"Georgia should be compelled to act swiftly to reform its criminal justice system given the number of wrongful convictions in its state," said John Terzano, President of The Justice Project. "Simple, practical reforms can help Georgia increase the fairness, accuracy, and reliability of its criminal justice system. We all have a vested interest in making sure the necessary reforms are in place to insure the best evidence is presented in the courtroom."

The Justice Project (TJP) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving the fairness and accuracy of the criminal justice system. TJP is based in Washington, D.C. and has offices in Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee.

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