We know there’s racial bias in the justice system. We know the relationship between black Americans and the country’s police forces isn’t great. We know that black convicts often face stiffer sentences than their white counterparts.
And now we know just how bad things really are.
The National Registry of Exonerations has just released a study that looks at all exoneration cases from 1989 to October 2016. The Registry’s study, entitled Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States, offers a bleak view of wrongful convictions for black Americans, particularly for those convicted of murder, sexual assault and illegal narcotics activity.
Of the 1,900 people exonerated during the 27 years of the study, the Registry found that 47 percent were black. “African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated,” the study laments.
The statistics worsen as individual criminal categories are examined. Black Americans convicted of murder have a 50 percent higher likelihood of being innocent than white convicts. To make matter even worse, the researchers found that, “on average, black murder exonerees spent three years longer in prison before release than white murder exonerees, and those sentenced to death spent four years longer.”
Unsurprisingly, when it came to murder, the Registry also found “African Americans imprisoned for murder are more likely to be innocent if they were convicted of killing white victims. Only 15% of murders by African Americans have white victims, but 31% of innocent African American murder exonerees were convicted of killing white people.”
The sexual assault portion of the study found that blacks are 3.5 times more likely than whites to be convicted of sexual assault. In a sad acknowledgement of an old suspicion, the researchers said there seems to be a “higher danger of mistaken eyewitness identification by white victims in violent crimes with black assailants.”
As with murder, the race of the crime’s victim was found to play a part in the conviction process: “assaults on white women by African American men are a small minority of all sexual assaults in the United States, but they constitute half of sexual assaults with eyewitness misidentification that lead to exoneration.” Too, the study reports that blacks convicted of sexual assault crimes spent four and a half years longer in prison before exoneration than whites.
In case these figures have you doubting what you know, the Registry confirmed commonly heard statistics on blacks convicted of narcotics crimes, including that although blacks and whites use illegal substances at the same rate, blacks are five times more likely to go to jail for possession than whites. With respect to wrongful convictions, “innocent black people are 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent white people.”
And that number may be even higher. That 12 times more likely figure was obtained studying exonerations; however, the report states “very few ordinary, low-level drug convictions result in exoneration, regardless of innocence, because the stakes are too low.”
The Registry concludes with the very woke observation that, when it comes to narcotics, “guilty or innocent, they,” that is, police forces, “always focus disproportionately on African Americans.”