Virginia was among the states with the most exonerations in 2013, a year that saw a record number of convictions overturned across the nation, according to a report released Tuesday.
Virginia had four of the 87 known exonerations, putting it among the 10 states with the most in the country, according to the National Registry for Exonerations. Two exonerations occurred in Maryland, and none in D.C.
The report found the number of exonerations nationwide in which DNA has played a role has been gradually declining since 2005, but during the same period the number of non-DNA exonerations nearly doubled from 34 to 69.
Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, editor of the registry, said a growing awareness of wrongful convictions is contributing to the higher number of exonerations.
“Everybody involved in the system — police officers, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and the public — has learned that false convictions happen on a regular basis,” Gross said. “They are more willing to take serious the possibility that an innocent person has been convicted.”
The study also found the following trends:
●Almost a third of the exonerations were in cases in which no crime occurred.
●Fifteen of the exonerations occurred in cases in which the defendant had pleaded guilty.
●Thirty-three of the exonerations occurred at the initiative or with the participation of law enforcement.
The registry said at least 1,300 falsely convicted felons have been exonerated over the past 25 years.