A record number of people were exonerated of crimes they did not commit in 2015 and were freed from prison. It could very well be that some inmates currently incarcerated in Tennessee were wrongfully convicted, as mistakes are more common than many people realize.
The 149 people exonerated had been in prison for an average of 15 years before being set free. The convictions included 47 drug crimes and 54 murder convictions. Five of the prisoners were on death row awaiting execution before their convictions were overturned, and 27 of the 149 people exonerated falsely confessed to the crimes.
In some areas, such as Harris County, Texas, prosecutors have stepped up to review their prior convictions. This is an unusual role for prosecutors, because traditionally they have spent most of their time either working to secure convictions or defending prior convictions through the appeals process.
In Texas, many of the convictions that were overturned involved guilty pleas to drug crimes that never actually occurred. Many of those wrongfully convicted accepted plea bargains for fear that if they went to trial, they might get a harsher sentence. Now there is a policy in place in Harris County to prevent aggressive plea bargaining tactics when there is no physical evidence that a crime ever occurred.
Pleading guilty to a crime may have serious long-term consequences for the person accused. It is a good idea for a person who has been accused of a crime to speak to an attorney experienced in criminal defense at the earliest possible stage of the investigation. Criminal defense attorneys will in most cases advise their clients not to give any testimony to authorities without them being present.