With the countless portrayals circulating throughout the media, serious crimes have become a common phrase to the average entertainment seeker. However, what many often forget is that those who face severe charges are actual people — people whose lives have been put on the line in a matter of hours. West Virginians currently experiencing such unfortunate events may feel overwhelmed at the extensive legal process, especially when a felony charge could be looming in the future. While false accusations are a sobering reality, where does the law draw the line?
TIME focused on the topic of exonerations and the wrongly convicted, stating that exonerations have hit an all-time high in America. In 2016 alone, a total of 166 wrongly accused people were found innocent — making the third year in a row that exonerations have been on the rise. There may be many reasons for this increase, but experts point toward a gradual trend in accountability within the system. In the past, TIME shares that those most likely to be exonerated were part of high profile cases; more recently, however, exonerations have gravitated toward both violent and nonviolent crimes. TIME used data from the National Registry to reveal that more than half of all exonerations are a result of perjury and false allegations.
The Innocence Project also provides updated exoneration statistics in America, stating that DNA evidence is often the key factor used in determining murder cases. Some of those exonerated in recent years had been on death row, with the average length of time served of 14 years. Many had plead guilty to crimes they did not commit, and 51 percent of false confessors were 21 years or younger when arrested. Another unsettling statistic showed that some of the false confessors had suffered from mental disabilities or illness. Whether the crime one is accused of is violent or nonviolent, there remain an overwhelming number of innocent Americans who still await their exonerations.