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A Proposal for Social Science Research on Wrongful Conviction

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $589,315)

In an effort to improve past research on wrongful convictions, and, more importantly, to expand understanding of the sources of wrongful convictions and craft recommendations for practitioners and policymakers, this project proposes a matched comparison study of cases of proven wrongful conviction and those of 'rightful' acquittal or dismissal. Utilizing quantitative and qualitative analyses, this project aims to produce more than a descriptive database of case histories; it will advance the field forward in understanding why innocent suspects are wrongly convicted in certain cases and why their charges are dismissed or, their cases acquitted in other matters.

In conducting a matched comparison study, the project will utilize two coding instruments. An initial tool will record basic facts about each case and create case narratives (describing what happened in a case) in addition to permitting more advanced statistical tests to analyze which factors are correlated with a wrongful conviction or rightful acquittal/dismissal. A second round of coding will apply a newly validated tool from the Police Foundation. This instrument not only records the evidence that was available to the prosecution and trier(s) of fact, but it also weighs this evidence to assess the reasonable likelihood of a suspect's guilt. A diverse panel of criminal justice experts will be convened for qualitative analyses of representative cases. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 21, 2009