The recent findings of a Better Government Association (BGA) investigation lay out the High Cost of Wrongful Convictions. The seven-month probe, which was done along with the Center on Wrongful Convictions and tracked exonerations between 1989 and 2010, found that taxpayers spent $214 million during that time period to send 85 innocent men and women to jail for a collective 926 years.
But wrongful convictions don't only cost the state money, they also cost lives.
According to the BGA report, the real culprits responsible for the crimes that sent the 85 innocent individuals to prison went on to commit at least 14 murders, 10 kidnappings, 11 sexual assaults and 62 other felonious acts while the wrongly convicted sat in prison.
"I am astounded," former U.S. Attorney and past chair of the General Assembly's Capital Punishment Reform Committee Thomas Sullivan told the BGA. "Those are astounding numbers in terms of total years in prison and dollars spent."
Those numbers also beg the question of why the cases were so fouled up in the first place. In the cases investigated by the BGA, alleged governmental and police misconduct was the leading cause of the wrongful convictions, affecting 66 cases. Erroneous eyewitness input and alleged prosecutorial misconduct rounded out the top three causes, affecting 46 and 44 cases respectively. In 33 of the cases, false confessions led to the imprisonment of innocent Illinoisans and in 30 cases incentivized witness testimony led to the convictions. These figures also indicate just how important -- and necessary -- it was for Illinois to place a moratorium and eventual ban on the death penalty, which went into effect last Friday, July 1.
Here's a look at the human impact of wrongful convictions from those who have been through the horribly life-altering experience, courtesy of ABC7 Chicago.
This infographic by ForensicScience.org shows the effect DNA evidence has had in freeing over 200 wrongly convicted Americans. The graphic also shows how Illinois has the dubious distinction of being one of three states in the country with more than 20 convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence.