Texas Led the USA in 2016 in Felony Exonerations

58 Texans were exonerated in 2016 after being convicted of felonies over the last three decades, by far the most ever and four times as many exonerations as in any other state, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The figures are included in the annual report of the National Registry of Exonerations.

Leading the exoneration roll last year was the 'San Antonio Four,' four women who were sent to prison in the early nineties as part of the 'Satanic Panic' in which people genuinely believed that children were being abused as part of 'Satanic rituals.'  In addition, as Lesbians, the women faced the now debunked presumption that LGBT indivdiuals are more likely to sexually abuse children.

The Registry says the 2016 exonerations covered four basic categories: government officials, including police and prosecutors, committing actual misconduct, convictions were based on guilty pleas which were frequently the result of intense police questioning, no crime actually occurred, or a newly crated Conviction Integrity Unit uncovered problems with the conviction.

It was the establishment of a C.I.U. in Harris County which resulted in the vast majority of the exonerations in Texas.

In fact, the Registry says C.I.U.s are responsible for many of the exonerations statewide, and praises District Attorneys for establishing the units.

93 of the exonerations nationwide were people who were convicted of violent felonies, including murder.  Another 61 were convicted of drug related offenses.

One of the people who was exonerated in 2016 had been in prison since 1964 for a crime he did not commit.  Forty-two percent of  exonerations   in   2016 included cases of official misconduct, from threatening witnesses to forensic analysts falsifying test results to child welfare workers pressuring children to claim sexual abuse where none occurred.  

The most common misconduct documented involve police or prosecutors or both concealing exculpatory evidence.

The report also cited an increasing problem in Texas, long term pre trial incarceration.  The report says the threat of continuing incarceration before trial convinced several Harris County defendants to enter guilty pleas to crimes they did not commit, and to crimes that never occurred.

The report also blasted crime labs, saying labs have identified everything from 'Jolly Ranchers to soap to cat litter' as illegal drugs.


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