The number of individuals exonerated in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2016, with 166 exonerations nationwide, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. In fact, exonerations have been on the rise throughout the years with 160 exonerations in 2015 and 147 the previous year.
So far this year, there have been 26 exonerations, with six of those exonerations in Texas, according to the registry. Texas saw a large jump in exonerations in 2014, when there were 42 exonerations. Prior to that exonerations which took place between 1989 and 2013 ranged between one and 16.
There have only been two exonerations in Lubbock County since 1989, according to the registry.
The first exoneration in 2009 was of a man named Timothy Cole, who was wrongfully accused of rape and sentenced to 25 years in prison. His case gained national attention for marking Texas’ first posthumous exoneration in Texas. Click here for more on Cole’s case.
The county’s second exoneration was in 2010. According to the exoneration registry, Darian Contee was wrongfully imprisoned on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm after police confiscated a handgun and arrested him at a motel in Lubbock in 2007. Three years later, “police took the weapon out of storage to carry out ballistic tests because they suspected it was used in a homicide. Crime lab technicians then discovered that the gun was actually an air pistol,” according to the registry.
Those two exonerations are among the 2,000 exonerations listed on the National Registry on Exonerations. Below, the organization has mapped out exonerations across the state, including information on the number of years inmates spent in prison before being exonerated as well as the crimes for which they were wrongfully charged.
Explore the data below or by clicking here
The report established that African Americans account for a disproportionate growing number of exonerations.
Unsurprisingly, the report found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and that African Americans convicted of murder “are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers,”.
Even when these wrongful convictions are rectified they contribute to an increase in violence on African American communities. A community in Lubbock that the AJ-EB has demonstrated a double standard for with regard to funding mechanisms for investments in community.
The report also found that “Only about 15% of murders by African Americans have white victims, but 31% of innocent African American murder exonerees were convicted of killing white people.”.
Innocent African Americans are more than three times likely to be wrongfully convicted of sexual assault than white convicts according to the report. Which is relevant to Timothy Cole case, apart from the failures of PD and prosecutor, since the major cause isn’t official misconduct but “the high danger of mistaken eyewitness identification by white victims in violent crimes with black assailants.”
Also determined, exhonerated African American prisoners were 22% more likely to have been targeted by police misconduct as a result of hateful individual racism by police and prosecutors. Even institutional racism, which is less overt, played a part in targeting.
There was a lot in the report that is as relevant now as ever considering Texas' disproportionate culpability for the growing number of exhonerations.
The AJ-EB, like some of the AJ contributors, have demonstrated the sort of implicit and, arguably, explicit racial bias that our elected officials and police departments have.
Change only comes from self-reflection and anti-bias training/thinking. Hope to see that happen more within a newspaper's editorial board, in a city, which bear the name of a slave holding white supremacist.
Edited to add: I am very grateful that Sarah Rafique and other wonderful reporters are at the Lubbock AJ.