Exoneration

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Exoneration occurs when a person who has been convicted of a crime is later proved to have been innocent of that crime. Attempts to exonerate convicts are particularly controversial in death penalty cases, especially where new evidence is put forth after the execution has taken place.

The term "exoneration" also is used in criminal law to indicate a surety bail bond has been satisfied, completed, and exonerated. The judge orders the bond exonerated; the clerk of court time stamps the original bail bond power and indicates exonerated as the judicial order.

Based on DNA evidence[edit]

DNA evidence is a relatively new instrument of exoneration. The first convicted defendant from a United States prison to be released on account of DNA testing was David Vasquez, in 1989. Recently, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate a number of persons either on death row or serving lengthy prison sentences. As of October 2003, the number of states authorizing convicts to request DNA testing on their behalf, since 1999, has increased from two to thirty. Access to DNA testing varies greatly by degree; post-conviction tests can be difficult to acquire. Organizations like the Innocence Project are particularly concerned with the exoneration of those who have been convicted based on weak evidence. As of October 2003, prosecutors of criminal cases must approve the defendant's request for DNA testing in certain cases. In other contexts, to exonerate can mean simply to free somebody from blame or guilt: to declare officially that somebody is not to blame or is not guilty of wrongdoing.

Monday, April 23, 2007, Jerry Miller became the 200th person in the United States exonerated through the use of DNA evidence.[1] There is a national campaign in support of the formation of state Innocence Commissions, statewide entities that identify causes of wrongful convictions and develop state reforms that can improve the criminal justice system.

In a February 4, 2014 NPR article, Laura Sullivan cited Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor stating that exonerations were on the rise, and not just because of DNA evidence. Only one-fifth of the exonerations last year relied on newly tested DNA, a little less than a third of exonerations occurred due to further investigating by law enforcement agencies.[2]

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