Preventing Wrongful Convictions Project
The Preventing Wrongful Convictions Project, led by Dr. Jon Gould and funded by the National Institute of Justice, is a unique collaboration between academic researchers and criminal justice professionals, including representatives of the prosecutorial and defense communities. The goal of the project is to understand how the criminal justice system avoids wrongful convictions by determining what factors or uniquely present in violent felony cases that ended in an official exoneration after conviction (“erroneous convictions”) with those in which defendants had charges dismissed before trial or were acquitted on the basis of their factual innocence (“near misses”).
Our research began by identifying a set of 460 erroneous conviction and near miss cases that met a stringent definition of innocence. We then researched and coded the cases along a number of variables, including location effects, nature of the victim, nature of the defendant, facts available to the police and prosecutor, quality of work by the criminal justice system, and quality of work by the defense. The cases were subsequently analyzed using bivariate and logistic regression techniques. With the assistance of an expert panel, we also explored the cases from a qualitative perspective.