The National Registry of Exonerations has just released data on the 139 people known to have been exonerated in 2017, along with historical data. This information gives us some insight into why 139 innocent people ended up behind bars, and how they ended up getting freed.
When a defendant is exonerated, what happens next? Suppose the defense proves that DNA evidence from the crime scene does not match the defendant. Or, perhaps a key witness recants their story. In some cases, misconduct by the police, prosecutors or the jury is discovered. Once it's clear that the prosecution's case is insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, does the defendant walk free?
Ledura Watkins was convicted of the 1975 murder of a 25-year-old woman during a home robbery. The only evidence against Watkins was a single hair found on the scene, which police analysts had tied to him using a technique that has since been discredited by the FBI. With the help of the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, Watkins is now free.