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Wrongful Conviction: What Does Science Tell Us About the Causes?

NCJ Number
Date Published
1 page

This is an outline of the findings of a NIJ-sponsored study that identified 10 statistically significant case factors that distinguish a wrongful conviction from a "near miss" case (a case in which an innocent defendant was acquitted or had charges dismissed before trial).


Wrongful convictions were significantly more likely to involve younger defendants with a criminal history. Factors related to the prosecution's case were a weak package of evidence and the prosecution's withholding of exculpatory evidence. Types of problems with evidence were lying by a non-eyewitness; unintentional misidentification by an eyewitness, and misinterpretation of forensic evidence at trial. Other factors in wrongful convictions were a weak defense, the defendant offered a family witness, and a pervasive "punitive" culture in the State where the trial was held. This brief report on the study provides information on how to access a more comprehensive summary of the report, internet access to a video of the presentation of study findings at a seminar, and an announcement of a web-based seminar on the study in mid-April 2013.