Exonerations: What They Can (and Cannot) Do
To exonerate is to clear of an accusation, to free from guilt or blame. It applies to a person when he or she has been convicted of a crime, only for society to later realize that the conviction was wrongfully applied. In a perfect world – and a perfect legal system – exoneration would be an unnecessary word. Unfortunately, our world and our justice system are far from perfect.
National Registry of Exonerations:
The National Registry of Exonerations is a collaborative effort among the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society, the University of Michigan Law School, and the Michigan State University College of Law. Its mission “is to provide comprehensive information on exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in order to prevent future false convictions by learning from past errors.” Their website promotes that their list of exonerations since 1989 has topped the 2,000 mark.
Many posts in this blog have highlighted various flaws of the justice system (e.g. the flawed sex offender registry, the guilty plea problem, etc.). It is exciting to be able to highlight those people, agencies, and partnerships that are attempting to fix these flaws and make the justice system in this country as good as it can be. Unfortunately, in the area of exonerations, each one – as exciting as they are – represents a person who was wrongfully convicted in the first place.
2016 was a record year for exonerations. The 166 exonerations last year topped the previous record of 160 set in 2015. Four of those exonerations were from cases in Virginia.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the four Virginia exonerations were from three different cases. One was a Crozet man who was wrongfully convicted of murder. The second was a man named Keith Allen Harward, who spent 33 years in prison on rape and murder convictions in Newport News. The last two cases were two members of the “Norfolk Four.” Their story was the subject of a PBS Frontline documentary called “The Confessions.” This public attention led to their eventual exonerations.
What Exonerations Cannot Do:
Go back to Harward’s exoneration for a moment. Here is a man who has been given back his freedom. It is a gift that he probably accepted with joy and relief. While society can give him back his freedom and his innocence, it cannot give back time. It cannot give back the 33 years that were spent behind bars. It cannot give him 33 years that he otherwise would have spent in regular, everyday life.
Exonerations are a good thing. Each one represents a wrong made right. Our justice system, and the society it represents, should have a goal of exonerating every wrongfully convicted criminal. An even better goal would be to avoid the need to exonerate in the first place.
One way to do that is to find a good attorney to represent you in court whenever you are faced with a legal issue. If this is you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
Case Results Disclaimer:
Every legal matter is different. The outcome of each legal case depends upon many factors, including the facts of the case, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any particular case. The outcome of every case will depend on a variety of factors unique to each case and case results depicted here do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.
Attorney/Client Relationship Disclaimer:
This website is designed for general information only. The information presented on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.
Blog Content Disclaimer:
The blog posts contained on this website were written, in part, by a non-lawyer employee of Jordan B. Davies. However, each post has been carefully reviewed and edited by Jordan B. Davies to ensure legal accuracy and compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.