How many Innocent People are Sentenced to Death?
Date:  11-25-2014

The latest figure is startling, but it doesn’t include innocent people in non-death sentence convictions
The news that the diligent work of the Ohio Innocence Project helped to free Ricky Jackson who spent almost 40 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and set the stage for the release of his two co-defendants, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, was a cause for celebration for many.

The trio had received the death penalty and it is a great relief to all that these innocent men were not executed. Read more

This is not the first time innocent people have been found not guilty years after they were convicted. It is fair to say that there are many others in prison who are innocent of the crime of which they were sentenced to death. How many more? That is a difficult question to answer, but Anthony Gross and his colleagues set out to determine that answer and found that among people sentenced to death the error rate is 4.1 percent. Read Gross’ article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Virginia Hughes recently wrote an article on Gross’ findings for National Graphic. Hughes is concerned that the rate of wrongful convictions is far higher. Hughes wrote, “It’s impossible to say whether this 4.1 percent false conviction rate applies to defendants who never went to death row.” She continues, “Of all of the people found guilty of capital murder, less than half actually get a death-penalty sentence. And when juries are determining whether to send a defendant to death row or to life in prison, surveys show that they tend to choose life sentences when they have “residual doubt” about the defendant’s guilt. That means, then, that the rate of innocent defendants serving life in prison is higher than those on death row.”

Read Virginia Hughes’ full article here.