More than 4 percent of inmates sentenced to death in the United States are probably innocent, according to a study published Monday that sent shock waves across the anti-death penalty community.
What the researchers call a "conservative estimate" about the number of wrongfully convicted death row inmates is more than double the percentage of capital defendants who were exonerated during more than three decades that were studied. That means innocent people are languishing behind bars, according to the study.
“The great majority of innocent people who are sentenced to death are never identified and freed," said Samuel Gross, lead author of the study and a University of Michigan Law School professor, in a statement. "The purpose of our study is to account for the innocent defendants who are not exonerated."
The four authors reviewed the outcomes of the 7,482 death sentences handed down from 1973 to 2004. Of that group, 117, or 1.6 percent, were exonerated.