FOLLOW-UP: Sun-Times Editorial: Better laws can help keep the innocent from prison

On Monday the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee held a public hearing about wrongful convictions in Illinois. The committee, led by Senators Mike Noland (D-22) and Kwame Raoul (D-13), heard testimony from three wrongfully convicted men and advocates for reform to the criminal justice system.

The hearing came as a result of a seven-month BGA/Center on Wrongful Convictions investigation that uncovered the high cost of wrongful convictions to taxpayers and the heavy human toll on those affected by wrongful convictions.

The investigation found that eighty-five cases of wrongful conviction have cost Illinois taxpayers $214 million since 1976, the bulk of the expenses occurring in the last 20 years. In addition, innocent men and women served a total of 926 years for crimes they did not commit.

In 95 percent of the cases examined, the investigation found that occurrences of alleged government misconduct contributed to the wrongful convictions.

Advocates urged lawmakers to consider reforms that would reduce the likelihood of eye-witness misidentification and false confessions—two major causes for wrongful conviction in Illinois, according to the investigation.

More hearings on wrongful convictions will be held in the coming months where lawmakers will continue to hear testimony from law enforcement officials and advocates about cost effective ways to reduce wrongful convictions in Illinois.