There are hard numbers on death penalty cases -- 4.1 percent of people sentenced to death are later shown to be innocent, thankfully often before the execution. For other serious crimes, one study estimated 10,000 wrongful convictions a year, which sounds impossible until you realize that's a mere 0.5 percent of the nearly two million people prosecuted in 1990, the year the study examined. Whether they compensated for parachute-pant-related crimes of fashion isn't clear, but a 2012 study also pegged 10,000 wrongful convictions as an entirely plausible number. That's an entire small town of Andy Dufresnes, and that's only for serious crimes.
Minor felonies like burglary, car theft, and drug charges almost always produce plea bargains with no serious examination of the evidence and no appeals. That's because the defendants in these cases don't fight the charges (either because they can't afford to or simply don't know how), or they're talked into confessing and taking a plea bargain. These defendants are sent to prison with little or no trial at all, and if we have a 4.1 percent error rate in heavily-scrutinized cases involving the death penalty, then what the hell is the error rate for the cases we barely even bother to put in a courtroom?
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