Illinois again leads the nation in exonerations 

For the fifth consecutive year, Illinois led the nation in exonerations in 2022 among 26 states and the District of Columbia and in cases prosecuted in federal courts, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

The total number of exonerations during the year was 228, with Illinois leading the nation with 126 of those studied, followed by Michigan with 16, Texas with 11, Louisiana with 9, New York with 9, Ohio with 7, and Pennsylvania and Virginia with 6 each. 

The remaining states include California, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Alabama, Maryland, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island, which recorded one to five exonerations. Federal courts reported nine wrongful convictions.

The University of Michigan College of Law, the Michigan State University College of Law, and the University of California Irvine’s Newkirk Center for Science & Society reported that 126 men and women, mostly men, were released from Illinois prisons after their convictions were overturned.

Many of the Illinois exonerations can be attributed to Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, a Black man who planted drugs or weapons on those arrested who refused to pay him bribes. The other person was Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara, who was tied to many instances of misconduct.

Exonerations in 2022 were divided between violent crimes (117/233) and non-violence crimes (116/233). Violent crimes included 80 for murder and 1 for manslaughter. Other crimes included sexual assault, robbery, and drug crimes.

Defendants exonerated in 2022 spent the equivalent of 2,245 years behind bars or 9.6 years per exoneree for their wrongful convictions. The average in 2021 was 11.5 years. 

The report was published on May 8, 2023.