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This is a report about the role of official misconduct in the conviction of innocent people. We discuss cases that are listed in the National Registry of Exonerations, an ongoing online archive that includes all known exonerations in the United States since 1989, 2,663 as of this writing. This Report describes official misconduct in the first 2,400 exonerations in the Registry, those posted by February 27, 2019.

In general, we classify a case as an “exoneration” if a person who was convicted of a crime is officially and completely cleared based on new evidence of innocence.

The Report is limited to misconduct by government officials that contributed to the false convictions of defendants who were later exonerated—misconduct that distorts the evidence used to determine guilt or innocence. Concretely, that means misconduct that produces unreliable, misleading or false evidence of guilt, or that conceals, distorts or undercuts true evidence of innocence.


Working paper version available at SSRN: