Blind Justice

Reports on the number of wrongly convicted individuals in the United States. Common reason for a wrong verdict.

By PT Staff, published on July 1, 1996 - last reviewed on June 19, 2012

Juries and judges are only human. So it's sadly inevitable that innocent people will sometimes be convicted. Out of nearly two million Americans found guilty of sundry crimes each year, the number of wrongly convicted individuals probably numbers at least 10,000, according to a trio of researchers. They base their estimate on a survey of more than 200 judges, prosecutors, police, and attorney generals.

Studying a sample of wrongful convictions, the researchers found that the most common reason for a wrong verdict is eyewitness misidentification. Which is no surprise, says Ohio State's C. Ronald Huff, Ph.D., coauthor of Convicted But Innocent (Sage). With such compelling distractions as, say, a gun aimed at their head, "victims are not concentrating too much on the features of the assailant's face."