Explore the Numbers: Innocence Project's Impact

3,874

years Innocence Project clients collectively spent wrongfully incarcerated

202

Innocence Project clients exonerated by DNA

3,874

years Innocence Project clients collectively spent wrongfully incarcerated

Jaythan Kendrick is exonerated from a 1995 murder conviction on Nov. 19, 2020 in New York. (Image: Ben Hider/AP Images for Innocence Project)

249

Innocence Project victories to date

202

Innocence Project clients exonerated by DNA

DNA has played a crucial role in proving innocence and solving crimes

In 1992, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld realized that if DNA technology could prove people guilty of crimes, it could also prove that people who had been wrongfully convicted were innocent. So they started the Innocence Project as a legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Since then, DNA testing and analysis has become vital to exonerating innocent people and driving criminal justice reform. Decades of data on DNA-related and non-DNA exonerations expose systemic vulnerabilities. The Innocence Project fights to redress these systemic issues through strategic litigation, policy reform, and education. This page explores a sample of the demographics of our exonerated clients, as well as the factors that contributed to their wrongful convictions.

Wrongful convictions are life-altering experiences with lifelong consequences

27

average age when wrongly convicted; 44 average age when exonerated

9% of the 249 people were sentenced to death

72

estimated number of exonerees who have not received compensation for their wrongful convictions. Fourteen states do not have a compensation law at all.

27

average age when wrongly convicted; 44 average age when exonerated

72

estimated number of exonerees who have not received compensation for their wrongful convictions. Fourteen states do not have a compensation law at all.

9% of the 249 people were sentenced to death

Correcting wrongful convictions impacts communities

101

additional violent crimes were committed while an innocent person was imprisoned in the original attacker’s place — including 56 sexual assaults, 22 murders, and 23 other violent crimes

89

people who actually committed the crime were identified from the 249 client exonerations and releases

34

states (plus D.C.) where Innocence Project client victories have been won

101

additional violent crimes were committed while an innocent person was imprisoned in the original attacker’s place — including 56 sexual assaults, 22 murders, and 23 other violent crimes

34

states (plus D.C.) where Innocence Project client victories have been won

89

people who actually committed the crime were identified from the 249 client exonerations and releases

Innocence Project cases reflect the disproportionate impact of wrongful convictions on Black people in the U.S.

58%

Black

8%

Latinx

33%

white

1% Asian American, Native American, or self-identified “other”

58%

Black

33%

white

8%

Latinx

1% Asian American, Native American, or self-identified “other”

Exonerations teach us about the most common causes of wrongful conviction

Lessons from Innocence Project DNA cases

Intake

Since 1993, the Innocence Project has received over 65,600 letters from incarcerated individuals seeking help in proving their innocence. The intake team processes the letters chronologically, and thoroughly reviews each case request received. 

Review

For our DNA exoneration work, the Innocence Project conducts an extensive evaluation of cases to determine whether the identity of the perpetrator is at issue, whether the perpetrator potentially left behind biological evidence, whether the biological evidence was collected, and what new testing may be conducted on the evidence.

$5,000- $50,000

range of costs for DNA testing of evidence for one case

Litigation

Once DNA cases are selected, our lawyers work to access the evidence for DNA testing through the consent of the State or court proceedings and litigating on behalf of the client and work to secure relief based on exculpatory evidence. This process can take decades before an exoneration occurs.

Intake

Since 1993, the Innocence Project has received over 65,600 letters from incarcerated individuals seeking help in proving their innocence. The intake team processes the letters chronologically, and thoroughly reviews each case request received. 

65,600+

letters received

Review

For our DNA exoneration work, the Innocence Project conducts an extensive evaluation of cases to determine whether the identity of the perpetrator is at issue, whether the perpetrator potentially left behind biological evidence, whether the biological evidence was collected, and what new testing may be conducted on the evidence.

$5,000- $50,000

range of costs for DNA testing of evidence for one case

Litigation

Once DNA cases are selected, our lawyers work to access the evidence for DNA testing through the consent of the State or court proceedings and litigating on behalf of the client and work to secure relief based on exculpatory evidence. This process can take decades before an exoneration occurs.

16

average years served before exoneration

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