SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – Wrongful convictions have cost Illinois taxpayers $214 million, the Chicago-based Better Government Association reported. Most of the money – $156 million – came in settlements and judgments to former prisoners who were exonerated.
The study by the Better Government Association and the Center on Wrongful Convictions included cases of murder, sexual assault, attempted murder and armed robbery in which wrongfully convicted people exonerated after 1989, through DNA testing.
The association found that innocent people spent a total of 926 years in prison, while the actual perpetrators of the crimes went on a collective crime spree that included 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults, 10 kidnappings and at least 59 other felonies.
“While the BGA/CWC study revealed that almost all of the wrongful convictions were caused by multiple factors, the cause most commonly alleged was government error and misconduct by police, prosecutors, and forensic officials,” according to the report.
The group expects the price tag to rise, as 16 civil lawsuits filed by exonerated people are pending. Those cases include police torture by officers under former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge, who was convicted in 2010 of perjury and obstruction of justice. Burge began serving a 4½-year prison sentence in March.
The allegations of torture-induced confessions led former Gov. George Ryan to impose a moratorium on the state’s death penalty in 2000. This year, Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the state’s death penalty.