Outside the Bubble 2/6/14

2013 A Record-Breaking Year for Exonerations

According to new statistics released by the National Registry of Exonerations, 2013 marked a record year for exonerations of people found guilty for crimes they did not commit. At 87 exonerations, 2013 has had the highest number of exonerations since the registry began recording this information 20 years ago. While many exonerations have only now become possible due to DNA testing, the high number is thought to also be a result of police officers and prosecutors being more willing to investigate themselves (NPR, “Exonerations On The Rise, And Not Just Because Of DNA,” 2.4.2014).

40 of the exonerations were based on murder convictions, including that of a man wrongly convicted and subsequently sentenced to death in the fatal stabbing of a fellow inmate in a Missouri prison in 1983, according to the report by the National Registry of Exonerations. The Registry also found that about one-third of the exonerations involved cases in which no crime had occurred (The New York Times, “Study Puts Exonerations at Record Level in U.S.,” 2.4.14).

The co-founder of the Registry and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Rob Warden, said the numbers reflect an improvement in the criminal justice system. “First, the courts and prosecutorial apparatus are more willing to take these cases seriously than they once were,” he said. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have gotten a court to look at a case where there was a confession. Now we know that false confessions happen quite regularly.”

Texas had the most exonerations with 13, followed by Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7) and California (6). Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan and Missouri with five a piece, and four each for Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia. (Time News, “Record Number of U.S. Prisoners Exonerated in 2013,” 2.4.14).

The change is most visible in district attorneys’ offices across the country. New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and others have started “conviction integrity units,” with the sole purpose of reviewing old cases and ensuring that the agency got it right (NPR, “Exonerations On The Rise, And Not Just Because Of DNA,” 2.4.2014).

All together, the 1,281 defendants who have been exonerated since the registry began recording data have spent nearly 12,500 years in prison for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted (Time News, “Record Number of U.S. Prisoners Exonerated in 2013,” 2.4.2014).

—Noble Ingram, News Editor

 

Toys of Anne Frank discovered in Rotterdam

More than 70 years ago, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam, living a cramped and solitary life many know about through the publication of Frank’s own diary. Shortly before Frank went into hiding, she had given some of her personal toys to a friend for safekeeping. The Anne Frank House recently put out a statement about the rediscovery of said toys and their plans to display them at the Kunstall Art Gallery in Rotterdam (USA Today, “Museum to display Anne Frank’s rediscovered toys,” 2.4.14).

Frank had given the toys, which include a tea set, a book and a box of marbles, to her childhood friend and neighbor Toosje Kupers, hoping to one day return and reclaim them. The museum has already displayed the tea set and book, but this will be the first time they display the box of marbles (CNN, “Anne Frank’s marbles to go on display in Rotterdam,” 2.4.14). Kupers had offered all of the toys to Otto Frank upon his release from Auschwitz. He told her she could keep the toys.

Kupers gave the book and the tea set to the Anne Frank House, but had kept the marbles until recently as a memory of Frank herself.

“So many people know about the Anne Frank because of the diary, which was written under such such unusual circumstances,” said the Museum Head of Collections Teresien da Silva said. “[But] the marbles are a reminder that she was just a little girl” (CBS, “Anne Frank childhood friend donates Jewish girl’s toys, given to her for safekeeping, to museum,” 2.4.14).

Kupers recently rediscovered the marbles when she was moving and thought it best to give them to the museum. The Kuper family also looked after Frank’s cat Moortje during that time.

—Palak Patel, Design Editor

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