Some Pennsylvanians are wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit. While cases in which people have been exonerated by DNA for murder convictions have been reported, little information about the percentage of people who have been wrongfully convicted of other crimes is available.
Capital crimes such as rape and murder have a wrongful conviction rate of 3 to 5 percent. A criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania was interested in learning about the wrongful conviction rates for other types of crimes. They designed a study to elicit information about wrongful convictions from the inmates themselves. The researcher surveyed almost 3,000 state prisoners in Pennsylvania during their intakes and asked questions about their conviction.
Out of the responses that the researchers received, approximately 6 percent affirmed they had been wrongfully convicted. The researchers understood concerns that the inmates would not be truthful when asked questions about their convictions, but they reported that two-thirds of the respondents took full responsibility for their offenses. While the percentage of innocent inmates is small, it still represents quite a few people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit.
People who are wrongfully convicted of felonies may spend decades in prison for crimes that they did not commit. People who are facing charges might benefit by seeking help from experienced criminal defense attorneys. The attorneys may investigate the cases thoroughly to try to uncover any evidence that their clients might not be guilty. They may build defense cases on behalf of their clients in an effort to secure the best possible outcomes in court.