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Criminal Justice Sciences


Michael Gizzi

Mentor Department

Criminal Justice Sciences


No system is without its shortcomings, and the legal system is no different. In the instance of a wrongful conviction, appeals may be filed for further examination of the case. When an individual who was wrongly convicted is released because of an error made within the Criminal Justice System, this is called an exoneration. My research examines trends within exoneration cases containing official misconduct prior to 1989, when DNA evidence became commonly used in courts. Through data collected from the National Registry of Exonerations, I have outlined the common causes of wrongful conviction from both police officers and prosecutors. Results showed that the most common form of police misconduct leading to wrongful conviction was coercing a false confession. That factor was followed closely by violence or the threat of it and framing the suspect. These three forms of police misconduct frequently occurred together in the narrative of police beat a false confession out of their suspect and then used that as evidence in court. Prosecutorial misconduct was largely centered around mishandling or withholding evidence in order to obtain the conviction, frequently by suppressing exculpatory evidence. There were many cases that featured both police and prosecutor misconduct.


This project has not received IRB approval.

Official Misconduct in Exoneration Cases Prior to 1989

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