A study by an innocence commission set up by the state of Virginia estimates that up to 15% of rape convictions in that state may be of the wrong person. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:
Data from Virginia’s post-conviction DNA project support the innocence of 33 persons convicted of sexual assaults from 1973 to 1987 concludes an Urban Institute study.
Findings released today indicate more people remain to be cleared by the Virginia project, a groundbreaking effort aimed at identifying persons wrongfully convicted in the 15 years before DNA testing was widely available.
The institute estimates a wrongful conviction rate in sexual assault cases of between 8 to 15 percent, comparable with the results in sample testing that exonerated two people and prompted then-Gov. Mark R. Warner to order the full Virginia project in 2005.
Jon Gould, director, of the Washington Institute for Public and International Affairs Research at American University, said “This is the most methodologically sound study that’s been done and the rate is much higher than has been shown in other studies.”
We should care about this for two reasons: First, because innocent people are in prison for crimes they didn’t commit; second, because the real rapists remain free to victimize others.