A study released Monday estimates that wrongful convictions cost Illinois taxpayers $214 between 1989, when modern DNA testing took root, and 2010, reports the New York Times. The study was the first to document the cost of the 85 cases that have been overturned. It was done by the nonprofit Better Government Association and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.
The amount will probably increase to $300 million once 16 pending lawsuits are settled. “The public pays in multiple ways” for errors or willful misconduct by law enforcement officials, said John Conroy, a veteran reporter, association senior investigator and co-writer of the report. “The whole community pays when the real criminal is left on the street and goes out and commits other felonies.” The perpetrators of crimes for which others were convicted went on to commit at least 94 more felonies, including 14 murders and 11 sexual assaults, according to the study. It said 83 men and 2 women spent a total of 926 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. In 81 of the 85 cases, the study found what it said was either misconduct or error by state officials — in 66 cases by the police, in 44 by prosecutors and in 29 by forensic specialists.