Fifty-four Texans were exonerated for a number of crimes in 2015, according to the National Registry of Exonerations from the University of Michigan Law School.The executive summary, released Feb. 3, said that 2015 was a record year for exonerations in the United States. One hundred and forty-nine people in 29 states, the District of Columbia, federal courts and Guam were set free. According to the summary, collectively those 149 had spent an average of 14.5 years behind bars.
Fifty-four people were exonerated for homicide charges and four for manslaughter in 2015. According to the summary, more than two-thirds were minorities, half of that number were black. Forty-seven people were set free from drug charges, including 42 who had pleaded guilty to the charges in Harris County, where Houston is located. Those numbers are also records, according to the summary.
Other counties listed in the report were Dallas and Bexar.
A number of convictions were based on false confessions with more than 80 percent of those being homicides with defendants either under the age of 18, mentally handicapped or both. Official misconduct led to a record 65 exonerations in 2015. Guilty pleas and no-crime cases were also listed as characteristics in these cases.
The National Registry of Exonerations has recorded 1,733 known exonerations since its inception in 1989.
See the full report at law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Exonerations_in_2015.pdf.