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Wrongful Convictions: The African American Experience

Race, Ethnicity and Law

ISBN: 978-1-78714-604-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-603-7

Publication date: 25 May 2017



To examine gender and racial differences in known wrongful conviction cases.


Cases were identified for inclusion in this study through the use of established databases available electronically. Supplemental information was gathered through newspapers, magazines, and direct correspondence with individuals associated with the cases.


Of special significance was the role of witness error in wrongful convictions. Although more prominent in cases involving African American men, witness error was also problematic in murder and manslaughter cases involving African American women. Whereas white women were more likely to be included in wrongful convictions for murder and child abuse, African American women were more likely to be found in wrongful convictions for drugs and property and other offenses. Wrongfully convicted white women were 2.7 times more likely than their African American counterparts to be sentenced to life. Victim race appeared to play a role in a number of the wrongful convictions for both African American men and women.


This study expands our knowledge of known wrongful convictions among African Americans, a group that is disproportionately found in the criminal justice data.



Free, M.D. (2017), "Wrongful Convictions: The African American Experience", Race, Ethnicity and Law (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 7-25.



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