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What Can DNA Exonerations Tell Us about Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates?

Author

Listed:
  • Bjerk, David J.

    () (Claremont McKenna College)

  • Helland, Eric

    () (Claremont McKenna College)

Abstract

We examine the extent to which DNA exonerations can reveal whether wrongful conviction rates differ across races. We show that under a wide-range of assumptions regarding possible explicit or implicit racial biases in the DNA exoneration process (including no bias), our results suggest the wrongful conviction rate for rape is substantially and significantly higher among black convicts than white convicts. By contrast, we show that only if one believes that the DNA exoneration process very strongly favors innocent members of one race over the other could one conclude that there exist significant racial differences in wrongful conviction rates for murder.

Suggested Citation

  • Bjerk, David J. & Helland, Eric, 2018. "What Can DNA Exonerations Tell Us about Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates?," IZA Discussion Papers 11837, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11837
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kate Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2009. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 163-177, February.
    2. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2006. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 127-151, March.
    3. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2001. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 203-232, February.
    4. Grogger, Jeffrey & Ridgeway, Greg, 2006. "Testing for Racial Profiling in Traffic Stops From Behind a Veil of Darkness," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 101, pages 878-887, September.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    DNA evidence; wrongful convictions; justice; discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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