Faculty Research Tracks Compensation Received by Exonerees

Jeffrey Gutman portrait
July 21, 2021

A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations looks at the human and financial toll of wrongful conviction on exonerated individuals, and announces that the nation has reached a new milestone as time lost to false convictions now exceeds 25,000 years. 

The study includes research by GW Law’s Jeffrey S. Gutman Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic, tracking compensation awarded to exonerees listed in the registry. 

Of the available data analyzed, Professor Gutman’s research found that “state and municipal governments have paid more than $2.9 billion in compensation—$756 million in statutory awards for wrongful imprisonment and almost $2.2 billion in judgments and settlements in civil lawsuits.” 

Professor Gutman’s research studied the 2,637 exonerations in state courts that were posted in the registry as of March 31, 2021. The majority of exonerated individuals listed in the registry have not received compensation. “Only about 45% of exonerees received any compensation for the damage to their lives; 55% have received nothing, at least so far,” the report states.

The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science & Society, University of Michigan Law School, and Michigan State University College of Law. Read the full report. 

Professor Gutman is the editor in chief of the Federal Practice Manual for Legal Aid Attorneys. He served on the Board of Governors of the District of Columbia Bar from 2011 to 2014, and he mediates civil cases in the D.C. Court of Appeals and the D.C. Superior Court Multi-Door Dispute Resolution program. 

Professor Gutman recently represented four men on civil claims against the District of Columbia government, who were exonerated of crimes by DNA evidence after spending decades in jail.