Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Legal Studies BA
Criminal Justice; Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs
William R. Newman, J.D.
Bridget Hayden, Ph.D.
Sabine Heinhorst, Ph.D.
Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs
Thousands of individuals have been wrongfully convicted across the United States. When an exoneration occurs, an individual’s conviction is absolved, and their innocence is proved through newly discovered evidence. While it might be impossible to protect from the errors of the criminal justice system, it is in the hands of the state to compensate the wrongly convicted. There is an abundance of research that focuses on reforming the existing wrongful conviction compensation legislation, but there is a lack of scholarly data that explains the motivations behind this compensation. Moreover, few researchers have considered the role of partisanship and political parties in creating these laws. This thesis will identify the political factors associated with the level of generosity in a state’s statutory remedies. First, this study begins with a thorough examination of remedies made available to exonerees in each of the fifty states. I analyzed the span of time between the years 2000 and 2021 to determine what shift, if any, each state experienced regarding its political orientation as a blue or red state. I then determined each state’s geographic location and most recent median household income to look for additional predictors of a state’s level of generosity towards victims of wrongful conviction. Second, I compiled this data numerically into an Excel spreadsheet for processing by the R programming language for statistical computing to analyze and graph my data. With this data, this study will examine the following aspects of wrongful conviction law in the United States: (1) a quantitative analysis of evidentiary factors leading to exoneration, (2) a quantitative measure of the role of DNA in obtaining an exoneration, (3) a review of the relationship, if any, between a state’s political party partisanship and its level of generosity in its statutory remedy for wrongful conviction, (4) a review of the relationship, if any, between a state’s geographic region and its level of generosity in its statutory remedy for wrongful conviction, and (5) a review of the relationship, if any, between a state’s median household income and its level of generosity in its statutory remedy for wrongful conviction. I have concluded that wrongful conviction compensation amounts appear to be random and are not consistently determined by political partisanship. Furthermore, neither political party dominates the movement for increased remedies for victims of wrongful conviction.
Keywords: “wrongful conviction”, exoneration, partisanship, “statutory remedies”, generosity, compensation
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St. John, Abigail, "A Comparative Analysis of Statutory Remedies for Wrongful Convictions in the Fifty States" (2022). Honors Theses. 865.