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Why Harris County, Texas, leads the US in exonerations

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In 2015, there were a record number of exonerations in the US and for the second year in a row, a huge number of those came from Harris County, Texas.

A 19-year-old man is arrested for illegal possession of Xanax pills that turn out to be an insomnia medication. A cigar butt is confiscated from a teenager suspected of packing it with marijuana – but he didn’t. A 25-year-old man is busted with 250 ecstasy pills that in reality are just over-the-counter antihistamines.

These may sound like small offenses, but they are just three of the stories of the 73 individuals who were convicted for drug possession in Harris County, Texas, and later found to be innocent.

This past year, there were a record-breaking number of exonerations, or criminal convictions reversed based on evidence of innocence, across the US.

According to the 2015 report from the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School, 149 people were exonerated in 29 states after serving an average sentence of 14.5 years in prison.

Forty-two of those 2015 cases came from Harris County, the most from any single jurisdiction – the second runner-up is Brooklyn County, New York, with just 8. This is the second year in a row that Harris County – whose population is just shy of 4.5 million and encompasses the city of Houston – lead the report in sheer numbers. In 2014, it had 31, making it the exoneration capital of the US.

Read more at BBC.com…

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