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 first convict 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. 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.
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.
Returning to Life After DNA Exoneration ()
List of exonerated death row inmates
List of exonerated life imprisonment inmates