Record number of homicide defendants exonerated in 2015, Texas l - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Record number of homicide defendants exonerated in 2015, Texas leads cases

(Source: KFDA) (Source: KFDA)

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -  Texas leads the United States in homicide defendant exoneration.

Recent shows like "Making a Murderer" have highlighted the process of exoneration, and an annual report from the National Registry of Exoneration is raising even more eyebrows.

Exoneration is the legal process of absolving a defendant from blame. In 2015, a record number of 58 homicide defendants exonerated in the U.S.

Texas currently leads the nation with the most such cases.

"Any innocent person convicted is one too many," says Randall County District Attorney James Farren. "But no human system, neither the space shuttle program, nor the criminal justice system is going to be perfect. Our error rate is lower than the space shuttle error rate. I think it's something we should celebrate and continue to work to make both programs better."

"We do a better job of examining old cases than practically any other state in the union," says Texas Innocence Project Founder Jeff Blackburn. "There's still a lot of problems, but by and large we have better laws in place to do that. One of the laws we have in place gives people who have been convicted the right to have their cases re-opened if those cases were based on what we call junk science."

Blackburn argues these numbers are proof the system doesn't work, as he says these people are released from incarceration for crimes they did not commit. He also says these numbers would be even higher if innocence organizations were funded properly.

"I have no doubt that if the Innocence Movement in Texas was properly funded, that we would have hundreds of defendants exonerated every year," Blackburn said. "The only reason we have in my mind only 50, is because we're so overworked and underpaid and under staffed."

But Farren says they only have one thing in mind: finding the truth.

"If a homicide occurs and we end up convicting the wrong person," Farren said. "That means the actual killer is still out there. And my goodness that's the last thing we want. We want to reach the correct conclusion and incarcerate the actual perpetrator and so we're all for increasing accuracy and reducing error."

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