DNA Exoneration: Exonerations refer to convicts officially cleared based on new evidence of innocence.  DNA Exonerations result from new DNA evidence of innocence obtained post-conviction.  A list of DNA exonerations is maintained by the Innocence Project. This research collection uses the same definition of an exoneration as the National Registry of Exonerations; however, this collection includes only exonerations that were substantially based on DNA tests conducted post-conviction.  The Registry definition is as follows:

Exoneration: A person has been exonerated if he or she was convicted of a crime and later was either: (1) declared to be factually innocent by a government official or agency with the authority to make that declaration; or (2) relieved of all the consequences of the criminal conviction by a government official or body with the authority to take that action. The official action may be: (i) a complete pardon by a governor or other competent authority, whether or not the pardon is designated as based on innocence; (ii) an acquittal of all charges factually related to the crime for which the person was originally convicted; or (iii) a dismissal of all charges related to the crime for which the person was originally convicted, by a court or by a prosecutor with the authority to enter that dismissal. The pardon, acquittal, or dismissal must have been the result, at least in part, of evidence of innocence that either (i) was not presented at the trial at which the person was convicted; or (ii) if the person pled guilty, was not known to the defendant, the defense attorney and the court at the time the plea was entered. The evidence of innocence need not be an explicit basis for the official action that exonerated the person.

Additional Terms

Juvenile: Under eighteen on the date of the original crime

LWOP: Life without parole sentence

Forensics Terms

Error: Cases with a note of “error” refer to those in which subsequent reanalysis of the laboratory records uncovered an error in the forensic laboratory analysis itself, as opposed to the framing of conclusions based on the underlying data.

Not disclosed: A note of “not disclosed” indicates not a judicial determination of a violation of Brady v. Maryland, but is rather a shorthand for a case in which exculpatory forensic evidence came to light only after trial, and it was later determined that the evidence had not been disclosed at the time of trial.

Vague: Vague testimony, as explained in Convicting the Innocent, refers to the use of vague and potentially highly misleading terminology such as “associated with” “consistent with” “similar” or “match.” The 2009 NAS Report also explained in some detail the lack of standardization and clarity concerning such terminology, noting, for example, “the problem with using imprecise reporting terminology such as ‘associated with,’ which is not clearly defined and which can be misunderstood to imply individualization.”

Valid (or invalid): Invalid testimony refers to trial testimony that rendered a conclusion not supported by empirical data.  For a detailed discussion, see Brandon L. Garrett & Peter J. Neufeld, Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions, 95 Va. L. Rev. 1, 5 & n.17 (2009). Validity is separate from the question whether a forensic methodology produces consistent results, and it is a separate question from the question whether errors were made in the laboratory.