Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Erroneous convictions are not as rare as one might expect and when they occur, the wrongfully accused are more often African American than White: Of those who were wrongfully convicted and later exonerated in the last quarter century, 47% were African American (The National Registry of Exonerations, 2013), even though only 13% of the U.S. population is (Rastogi, Johnson, Hoeffel, & Drewery, 2011). Yet Gould, Carrano, Leo, and Young’s (2013) recent analysis of miscarriages of justice indicated that race does not reliably differentiate between cases in which innocent defendants are wrongfully convicted as opposed to rightfully acquitted. They suggested that, rather than explaining what goes wrong at the plea or trial stage of the criminal justice process, race may be more important for understanding why innocent individuals erroneously enter the justice system in the first place. Indeed, every wrongful conviction can be traced back to the initial erroneous classification of an innocent person as guilty, the first of a series of mistakes made by the police and other criminal justice professionals (for review, see Leo & Drizin, 2010). The potential for race to lead to misclassification errors is demonstrated by the recent judgment in the class-action civil rights trial Floyd v. City of New York (2013). A federal judge determined that thousands of African Americans and Latinos had been illegally stopped, questioned, or frisked on the basis of discriminatory practices enacted by the New York Police Department (NYPD)—in fact, 90% of African Americans stopped by the NYPD in 2012 were innocent (New York Civil Liberties Union [NYCLU], 2013).


Posted with permission. This is the Author's Accepted Manuscript. The Version of Record can be found in the full book, which can be found here: Najdowski, C. J. (2014). Interactions between African Americans and police officers: How cultural stereotypes create a wrongful conviction pipeline for African Americans. Invited chapter in A. D. Redlich, J. R. Acker, R. J. Norris, & C. L. Bonventre (Eds.), Examining wrongful convictions: Stepping back, moving forward (pp. 55-70). Carolina Academic Press.



Rights Statement

In Copyright

Terms of Use

This work is made available under the Scholars Archive Terms of Use.