A record number of people wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated in 2015, with 42 wrongful convictions in Houston’s Harris County drug cases boosting the nationwide tally to 149, says the National Registry of Exonerations’ annual report. The Texas Tribune says the most exonerations, 105, were in homicide and drug cases. Texas led in overall exonerations with 54, followed in distant second by New York with 17. Last year’s record barely exceeds the 139 exonerations documented in 2014.
The Texas exonerations,which are defined as when someone is cleared of a crime or set free by a government official or body, were for crimes committed as far back as 2004, the report found. Conviction integrity units in district attorney’s offices made a difference, especially in Harris County, according to the report. The conviction review section in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office identified 42 of the 47 wrongful drug convictions recorded for the entire nation last year. There were 24 conviction integrity units in the U.S. last year, and they identified 58 wrongful convictions overall in 2015. The units obtained 151 exonerations between 2003 and 2015. The registry has recorded more than 1,700 exonerations since 1989.