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Illinois, Cook County Leads Nation In Wrongful Convictions

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 12, 2012 5:40PM

Photo Credit: Marc Sullivan

Illinois, spurred on by Cook County, leads the nation in wrongful convictions according to a recent report by the The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint project of the University of the Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

Since 1989, 101 people in Illinois have had their convictions overturned. 78 of those cases came from Cook County. That's nine percent of the 891 wrongful convictions listed in the report. The most recent wrongful conviction in Illinois was James Kluppelberg, who had his conviction for a 1984 arson overturned because evidence used in the trial was discredited and a witness who testified Kluppelberg confessed to the crime admitted he lied. Other cases listed in the report link back to the torture practices of former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge.

You're probably thinking, "tell us something we don't know." But the high number of wrongful convictions doesn't mean the justice system in Cook County is necessarily broken. As lawyer/ChicagoNow blogger Michael Helfand noted, it does mean we're quicker in figuring it out and being vigilant in getting wrongful convictions overturned. The work of the Center for Wrongful Convictions has led to the exoneration of 34 men and women in Illinois. And while Cook County has had scores of wrongful convictions overturned, counties across the country such as San Bernadino and Alameda counties in California, and Farifax County, Virgina have had none.