Record number of convictions overturned in 2016

Little is said about attorneys or organizations that work to free people falsely accused of (and convicted of) crimes that they did not commit. People only seem to know about them when a person is freed from death row or are released from prison after decades of incarceration. While these stories are still more of the exception than the rule, more people are being exonerated after being found innocent despite being prosecuted.

In fact, the number of people set free after being falsely convicted reached yet another record last year.   According to a report produced by the National Registry of Exonerations and the Center on Wrongful Convictions, 166 people were exonerated in 2016, including 52 for murder. A large majority of these convictions were based on guilty pleas. While the reasons the pleas were varied, intimidation from police detectives likely played a role.  

This is why the story of two Albany men is particularly important. Both were recently released from prison after being convicted on murder charges in 1997 based on fabricated evidence and coercion from police detectives, which eventually led to them unwittingly signing statement admitting their guilt. A timesunion.com report detailed how detectives interrogated the men and even deprived them of food and sleep. Attorney Joshua D. Kelner described how there was no training on how to avoid producing false confessions, and there was no video or audio monitoring that would have shown that the confessions were obtained through inappropriate means. 

 The men have since initiated federal civil rights lawsuits based on civil rights violations and malicious prosecution. Ultimately, the it shows that law enforcement agencies must willing to second guess themselves and review evidence and confessions from old case files that could have been based on false (or flawed) information.

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