Nationwide, one out of two hundred adds up to about 10,000 wrongful convictions each year, or let’s say about 150,000 in the years since DNA testing has been widespread. During this time, according to the Innocence Project, “there have been [only] 266 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the
Many (but certainly not all) wrongfully convicted men and women have been picked up in the past for other offenses. Many of them have records. By some people’s logic, arresting and convicting past offenders for crimes that they didn’t commit might not be such a bad thing: they’re in the game, getting in trouble, taking risks that make them likely suspects when new crimes occur. Arresting and imprisoning them – even executing them – might be seen as part of a karmic justice system, paying them back for offenses that they’ve undoubtedly committed without being caught.
But I don’t see it this way. Wrongful convictions, it seems to me, are equal to the worst offenses we’re capable of committing against each other. Such convictions bury people alive. They’re the stuff out of which the scariest nightmare fiction could be made. But, intriguingly, very few works of crime fiction have represented wrongful convictions in ways that explore the depths of the nightmare. Like certain narratives of sexual violation and child victimization, this topic might be too dark for even fictional pleasure.