African-Americans in the United States are far more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes such as murder, sexual assault and illegal drug activity than white people due to factors including racial bias and official misconduct, according to a study released Tuesday.
Of the 1,900 defendants convicted of crimes and later exonerated, 47 percent were African-Americans, a figure three times their representation in the population, according to the study from the National Registry of Exonerations examining cases from 1989 to October 2016.
The study also found that Black defendants were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than their white counterparts.
When it comes to drug crimes, innocent Black people in the U.S. are about 12 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted than white people, the study said.
"In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white," said Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan Law School professor who is senior editor of the group that tracks U.S. exonerations.
He attributed the troubling results to several factors such as unconscious bias, institutional discrimination and explicit racism.
A study last June found that African-Americans are imprisoned at least five times more than white people across the country, the ratio being 10 Black people to one white person in at least five different states.
A separate study from the same group released Tuesday showed that 2016 set a record for known exonerations in the United States since 1989 at 166, up from 160 cases in 2015.
Nearly 60 of the exonerations came from Texas — the most of any state — where district attorneys in the counties that include Houston and Dallas have set up integrity units to examine prosecutions for possible problems.
Most of the Texas exonerations were drug convictions in Harris County, which includes Houston. In many of the cases, suspects pleaded guilty to drug possession and months or years later, reports from crime labs showed that seized material contained no controlled substances.