Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction

Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction

In a sample of homicide and sexual assault convictions in Virginia between 1973 and 1987, post-conviction DNA testing supported exoneration of 5 percent of the offenders, a new report from the Urban Institute finds. The report, Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction (69 pages, PDF), examined the results of DNA testing conducted between 2009 and 2011 on physical evidence from 634 cases involving 715 convictions, of which 230 cases involving 250 convictions produced determinate outcomes. Fifty-six convicted offenders, or 8 percent of those convicted, were eliminated as a contributor of probative evidence, while for thirty-eight offenders, or 5 percent of the sample, the elimination was supportive of exoneration. Moreover, when the sample was limited to sexual assault convictions, DNA testing eliminated convicted offenders as the source of the evidence and supported exoneration in 8 percent to 15 percent of convictions. Funded by the National Institutes of Justice, the report calls for a robust and coordinated policy response to its findings.