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Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death

(by Samuel Gross, Barbara O'Brien, Chen Hu & Edward H. Kennedy,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 20, pp. 7230-7235 (2014)., September 17, 2014,

Virtually all observers of the criminal justice system generalize the wrongful conviction rate for capital defendants to all defendants. In a correctional system with 2.3 million prisoners, a wrongful conviction rate of 4% would amount to 92,000 innocent inmates. But there are good reasons to believe that the wrongful conviction rate of non-capital defendants may actually be higher than that for capital defendants. Firstly, those defendants charged with crimes that carry the death penalty are provided public defenders of a higher quality than those charged with more pedestrian offenses. And secondly, federal appellate courts scrutinize capital convictions from state courts much more closely than non-capital state court convictions.


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