People in Missouri may have good reason to fear a false conviction, especially if they are facing criminal charges for a crime they did not commit. In 2018 alone, prisoners were exonerated who had served a combined total of over 1,600 years in prison despite the fact that they were innocent of the charges against them. In a report by the National Registry of Exonerations, the organization noted that 151 people were released from their sentences in 2018 with an average sentence of around 11 years per person.
A number of these wrongful convictions were linked to misconduct, fraud, corruption or other problematic actions on the part of police, prosecutors or other officials. In at least 107 of the 2018 exonerations, official misconduct was a factor. This was especially true in the most serious cases: Police or prosecution behavior was a factor in 80% of the 54 murder cases that led to exoneration in 2018.
The annual report has typically not focused on the issue of group exonerations. However, the organization has noted that in many cases, the people involved are receiving individualized treatment in how their cases are handled. Over the last several years, the city of Chicago has seen dozens of people exonerated in drug cases linked to a corrupt police sergeant and his unit. The sergeant ran a sort of protection scam in which people were charged with drug crimes on the basis of planted evidence if they refused to pay extortion demands.
People who are convicted of criminal charges may face prison time, hefty fines or a felony criminal record that limits their future substantially. People accused of a crime may work with a criminal defense attorney to present a defense before trial and in the courtroom.