This report is based on five months of research conducted by a network of activists and lawyers as part of the Grassroots Investigation Project. The Project is an ongoing effort to document and investigate cases where there is compelling evidence of innocence and due process violations. The researchers have employed a case study methodology, in which they have relied on individual cases to highlight widespread patterns and practices of the state that lead to the violation of rights and may lead to the execution of innocent people.

All 16 cases contained in this report were selected based on the compelling nature of the evidence of innocence. Additional criteria used to select cases included the exemplary nature of the cases; all of the cases demonstrate widespread and recurrent defects in the administration of the death penalty. Using criteria for review developed by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, trial, appellate, and investigative documents were compiled and analyzed. This information, as well as information obtained through independent investigations in some cases, formed the basis of the case studies and the charts that were developed for each of the cases. (See appendix for charts on cases included in this report.)

This report represents only a small number of the actual cases in which people have been executed for crimes they probably did not commit. The project’s research into such cases is ongoing.