Thanks to some high-profile cases—Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the Central Park Five, Steven Avery (Netflix original documentary series, ”Making a Murderer”)—the term “exonerated” is now a well-known expression. Since 1989, 390 people have been exonerated in Texas; 356 in Illinois; 307 in New York; 229 in California; and a total of 2,754 in the entire country.

Being accused of a crime is humiliating. Being wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, often for years, is incomparably worse. From a legal perspective, to be exonerated is to be completely cleared of the charges for which a person was convicted. Often this is accomplished by using DNA profiling of biological material obtained at crime scenes and matching those samples against a DNA database overseen by the government. Now a widespread forensic practice in many jurisdictions, such DNA testing has helped many wrongly convicted people prove their innocence and allowed them to seek exoneration. The Innocence Project and other organizations assist people who may have been wrongfully convicted by using DNA and other evidence.

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