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Exonerations climb in US, as prosecutors, police probe wrongful convictions

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Daniel TaylorExonerations in the US have reached the highest number in 25 years, in large part because prosecutors and law enforcement officers are increasingly willing to revisit convictions for possible errors, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a program led by two American law schools.

Eighty-seven people wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated last year, up from 83 in 2009. It's the highest total since in 1989, when data were first available.

Though it is difficult to pinpoint what led to the increase, the report suggests that the uptick is associated with a subtle change in the legal climate in the US, in which prosecutors and police are investing more time and resources in reviewing cases for evidence of wrongful convictions, often correcting the wrongdoing of predecessors.

During the past 25 years, almost 60 percent of the wrongful convictions for homicide in the US are associated with official misconduct, according to data from the report. Moreover, 17 percent of those exonerated originally pleaded guilty. In most cases, the defendant had accepted a plea bargain for a reduced sentence. In other incidents, the exonerated convict had been a victim of coercive interrogation techniques.

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