Jurisdiction-Specific Wrongful Conviction Rate Estimates: the North Carolina and Utah Examples

Determining an error rate for wrongful convictions remains among the most pressing problems in the criminal justice literature. In a response to my earlier article, Professor George Thomas has offered an intriguing way to make that determination—through examining innocence cases uncovered through North Carolina’s Innocence Inquiry Commission. This Reply reassesses Thomas’s North Carolina estimate rate, concluding it to be somewhat too high. This Reply then looks at another state—my home state of Utah—to find another possible jurisdiction- specific error rate. Properly calculated, the wrongful conviction rates for North Carolina and Utah support my earlier-offered suggestion of a wrongful conviction rate in this country much lower than the rates commonly suggested in other wrongful conviction literature. This Reply underscores the important point of convergence between Thomas’s estimate and my estimates: both are much lower than the conventional wisdom on the subject suggests.