Mission: Improbable Getting Exonerated From a Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

Extensive citation of social science research is unnecessary for us to know that child sexual abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. Likewise, most people would be hard pressed to think of a crime as despicable as child sexual abuse, and we have few qualms about strict sentences for such offenders. So when an Orange County, California, Superior Court judge recently sentenced a child rapist to 10 years instead of the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, the community was outraged. Tens of thousands of people called for the judge to resign.

It happens—albeit rarely—that people are wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse and are later exonerated. The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), a project of the University of Michigan Law School “provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.”

This article looks at the 181 cases of people listed in the NRE registry as exonerated for “child sex abuse” from 2010 through August 2015.


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