BALTIMORE (Circa) — According to the National Registry of Exonerations, from 1989 through the end of 2017, 2,161 Americans wrongfully convicted of a crime were exonerated.
As a result, researchers and practitioners have become increasingly interested in identifying the factors and processes that lead to the incarceration of innocent people.
To date, there's still a limited understanding of factors associated with justice system errors, and widely divergent views on the prevalence of wrongful convictions.
One City, Four Similar Stories
In 1987, a jury convicted Gary Washington of murder. Thirty-one years later, that conviction was overturned.
Washington joins fellow Baltimore natives Malcolm Bryant, Lamar Johnson, and Jerome Johnson as those convicted of murder, sentenced to life in jail, only to see their convictions thrown out.
All four cases share a common factor: A child or teenager was a key witness in their prosecution.
Defense Attorney Jeremy Eldridge told WBFF News that young witnesses are more susceptible to suggestion. Their testimony can be unreliable.
“Often times, what you’re trying to do, is corroborate a child’s testimony, whether it’s through obtaining video evidence or other witnesses,” Eldridge said.
Evidence and witnesses that Shawn Armbrust of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project says were not utilized in some of these cases.
“The police get a lead and seize on the theory without doing some of the leg work they should have done,” Armbrust said.
Bryant, Jerome and Lamar Johnson not only saw their convictions overturned, but their cases dismissed by prosecutors.
For Gary Washington, prosecutors plan to put him back on trial in January.