A common misconception in America is that the vast majority of people in prison have been proven guilty by the State. Another misconception is that no one would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But the reality is that approximately 95% of felony convictions are obtained through guilty pleas. To put this statistic into perspective, this means that only one of every twenty convictions is obtained by the State going to trial and proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Of the 347 people who have had their convictions overturned by DNA evidence that was not available at the time of their trial, 10%, or 34 were originally convicted based on a guilty plea. This poses a very important question about our criminal justice system: why would someone who was actually innocent plead guilty?
This is only one of the shocking statistics that The Innocence Project seeks to address in their upcoming “Guilty Plea Problem” campaign. The goal of this campaign is to shed light on the overwhelming number of innocent people who are pleading guilty to crimes that they did not commit. Those 347 people are not representative of the total number of innocent individuals who remain behind bars after entering a guilty plea.
For one reason or another, there are people all over the nation who decide to plead guilty although they themselves know the truth. This epidemic is what The Innocence Project is hoping to expose with their “Guilty Plea Problem” campaign. Their new website goes live on January 23, and it aims to tell the often untold stories of exonerees who fought for and found life after their plea.
Over the course of the campaign, The Innocence Network will be introducing several individuals and asking why they plead guilty, despite their innocence. Exoneree Rodney Roberts said, “Innocent people plead guilty, not out of ignorance, but out of fear.”
By bringing attention to the truth of guilty plea, the Innocence Network strives to promote conversation about a critical issue that can hopefully blossom into effective solutions. To be a part of the “Guilty Plea Problem” initiative, visit the extension of the Innocence Network’s website at, http://guiltypleaproblem.org/?utm_source=Main+IP+Email+List&utm_campaign=b4935e257d-EMAIL_Guilty+Plea_2017_01_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_016cb74fd6-b4935e257d-350586661 for its launch on January 23. Also, be sure to keep updated with our website: http://wvinnocenceproject.law.wvu.edu/ for blog updates regarding the “guilty plea problem.”