New database reveals wrongful convictions epidemic
Criminal justice system errors are responsible

View Database at

Charleston, SC — Dr. Edmund Higgins announced that he has created the largest database of the wrongfully convicted in the U.S. and Canada. This database is available to the public, at no cost, at

This database contains names and case information of the almost 300 innocent people in the United States and Canada who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime and were later released. Some were serving sentences on death row.

“The purpose of the database is to track the ever-growing number of the wrongfully convicted, identify and understand the associated mistakes and hope that, somehow, this information may be used to prevent another error,” said Higgins.

The database reports each known case of wrongful conviction and the reason for exoneration, including DNA evidence.

According to Higgins, the database reveals that the most common reason for exoneration is not DNA evidence (82 cases), but identification of the actual culprit (166 cases). The database also reveals that in eight instances the alleged murder victim was found alive.

The website identifies and examines several types of criminal justice system errors that cause wrongful convictions and reports their frequency (some cases have more than one error):

  • Erroneous Eyewitness Identification:   58%
  • False Informant:    31%
  • Official Misconduct:   17%
  • False Confession:   17%



    The database summary shows that 48% of the wrongfully convicted were sentenced to death (18%) or life in prison (30%).

    Louis Bennett’s fingerprint was found at a crime scene. He would have spent 35 years in prison if the actual culprit had not come forward.

    Ernest Holbrook was implicated by a jailhouse snitch. He would have spent his life in prison had the murderer not been found.

    Illinois and New York top the list with 30 known wrongful convictions each. South Carolina has four.

    “Unlike the FAA  — which studies crash scenes in careful detail in order to prevent future tragedies — the criminal justice system has no process to learn from its mistakes,” said Higgins. “The result is a second crime, the wrongful conviction.”

    “And my database is just the tip of the iceberg. These are the wrongful convictions we know about. How many more are there? How can we prevent this from happening again?”

    This database, the first of its kind, coincides with several recent political and legal maneuvers regarding problems within the criminal justice system.

    On August 3, Martha Barnett, the Florida lawyer who heads the American Bar Association, urged Congress to place a moratorium on federal executions given recent data that revealed inequities in justice system administration.

    The National Death Penalty Moratorium Act would suspend federal executions until a national commission reviewed administration of the death penalty.

    The Innocence Protection Act calls for death penalty reforms, including the right for eligible federal and state inmates to access DNA testing. It was co-authored by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, who is chief Senate sponsor of the bipartisan of the act.

    In June, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a long time death penalty supporter, expressed concerns about the fairness with which the death penalty is administered. O’Connor remarked on inadequate counsel and cited the many exonerated inmates released from death row.

    Edmund Higgins, MD, is a clinical assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.  He is forensic psychiatrist with a private practice in Charleston, SC.  He is also the consulting psychiatrist at the Charleston County Detention Center. He began compiling this database approximately four years ago. He graduated from the Case Western University School of Medicine in 1984.

    View Database at