African-Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites, study finds

African-Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites, study finds
African-Americans are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes including murder, sexual assault, and illegal drug activities than whites, according to a new study. The research blamed a number of factors, including racial bias and official misconduct.

The study from the National Registry of Exonerations examined cases from 1989 to October 2016, finding that 47 percent of the 1,900 defendants convicted of crimes and later exonerated were African-Americans – a figure which is three times their representation in the population. 

The research also found that African-Americans were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than whites.

“African Americans imprisoned for murder are more likely to be innocent if they were convicted of killing white victims,” the study noted.

Study author Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan Law School professor, noted that official misconduct was rampant in homicide cases involving African-Americans.

“In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white,” Gross said, as quoted by Reuters.

He went on to state that unconscious bias, institutional discrimination, and explicit racism were also factors in some of the wrongful convictions.

The study noted that most wrongful convictions are never discovered, but that “judging from exonerations, half of those innocent murder defendants are African-Americans.”

When it comes to sexual assaults, the study found that 59 percent of exonerees were African-Americans – representing four-and-a-half times their proportion in the population.

“In half of all sexual assault exonerations with eyewitness misidentifications, black men were convicted of raping white women, a racial combination that appears in less than 11 percent of sexual assaults in the United States,” the study noted.

It went on to state that black defendants convicted of raping white women are about eight times more likely to be innocent than white men convicted of raping their own race.

African-Americans were also found to be about 12 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted in drug crimes than innocent white people.

The study comes as the 'Black Lives Matter' campaign continues throughout the US, following numerous protests last year and allegations of police brutality towards African-Americans.