The 64-year-old Black man was convicted in 1976 of raping a White woman and burglary. But that conviction was recently vacated by a federal judge, who cited a “troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence,” including semen samples and fingerprints from the crime scene that did not match Long’s.
The 185-page study examined 2,400 exonerations in the registry dating back to 1989. It grouped officials’ misconduct into five categories, including witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, fabricating evidence, concealing exculpatory evidence and misconduct at trial.
In addition to police, prosecutors committed misconduct in 30% of the cases examined, the study says. Misconduct by forensic analysts was a factor in 3% of cases, while misconduct by child welfare workers was a factor in 2% of cases.
Most cases involved more than one type of misconduct, the study says. Sometimes the misconduct by officials was purposeful, like lying in court. But other times the misconduct was unintentional.
The study says that Black defendants were most impacted by officials’ misconduct. Among cases involving Black exonerees, the rate of misconduct was 57%, compared to 52% among White exonerees. Misconduct was committed in 87% of cases against Black exonerees who were sentenced to death, compared to 68% of their White counterparts.
Ninety-three innocent defendants were sentenced to death, in part, due to misconduct by officials, the study says.
As to why this type of misconduct might be occur in the first place, the study concludes that it’s a “systemic” issue. It points to “pervasive practices that permit or reward bad behavior,” a lack of resources and “ineffective leadership by police commanders, crime lab directors and chief prosecutors.”
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur contributed to this report.