Summary View help for Summary
This study extends research on wrongful convictions in the United States and the factors associated with justice system errors that lead to the incarceration of innocent people. Among cases where physical evidence produced a DNA profile of known origin, 12.6 percent of the cases had DNA evidence that would support a claim of wrongful conviction. Extrapolating to all cases in our dataset, the investigators estimate a slightly smaller rate of 11.6 percent. This result was based on forensics, case processing, and disposition data collected on murder and sexual assault convictions in the 1970s and 1980s across 56 circuit courts in the state of Virginia. To address limitations in the amount and type of information provided in forensic files that were reviewed in the Urban Institute's prior examination of these data, the current research includes data collected through a review of all publicly available documents on court processes and dispositions across the 714 convictions, which the investigators use to reassess prior estimates of wrongful conviction.
Citation View help for Citation
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Subject Terms View help for Subject Terms
Geographic Coverage View help for Geographic Coverage
Smallest Geographic Unit View help for Smallest Geographic Unit
Restrictions View help for Restrictions
Access to these data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a Restricted Data Use Agreement, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.
Distributor(s) View help for Distributor(s)
Time Period(s) View help for Time Period(s)
Date of Collection View help for Date of Collection
Data Collection Notes View help for Data Collection Notes
The first report from analysis of Part I data (based only on forensic files and not courthouse files) can be found here: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/238816.pdf
Study Purpose View help for Study Purpose
The purpose of this study is to extend prior research on the prevalence of wrongful convictions based on forensics, case processing, and disposition data.
Study Design View help for Study Design
The study design includes two parts. Part I includes the 2012 Urban Institute report, "Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction," which presented an estimated rate of wrongful conviction based on post-conviction DNA testing of over 700 felony convictions in the state of Virginia between 1973 and 1987 (Roman et al. 2012). Part II of the study represents an effort to overcome the limitations of the Part I study by reviewing all publicly available files from over 50 Virginia Circuit Courts to collect case processing and disposition data for each conviction included in Part I.
Sample View help for Sample
Cases in this study represent 714 murder and/or sexual assault convictions disposed in Virginia between 1973 and 1987 for which forensic evidence from the original case file was found.
Universe View help for Universe
Sexual assault and homicide cases where there was a conviction and physical evidence was retained in Virginia between 1973 and 1987.
Unit(s) of Observation View help for Unit(s) of Observation
Data Type(s) View help for Data Type(s)
Mode of Data Collection View help for Mode of Data Collection
Description of Variables View help for Description of Variables
Variables include whether or not many specific types of forensic evidence were available, details on the case such as plea, type of trial, type of counsel, and others, as well as offender demographic data.
Response Rates View help for Response Rates
Presence of Common Scales View help for Presence of Common Scales
Original Release Date View help for Original Release Date
Version History View help for Version History
2021-09-15 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:
- Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.
The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.