A: No, what it means is that some prosecutors in the past proceeded to court solely on the basis of identifications without corroborating physical evidence, mostly in cases of stranger-rape, and that they convinced the juries in those cases that the identification was valid, when later evidence shows that the identification was mistaken. New procedures whereby DNA exclusion takes place in the investigative phase mean that such convictions will be far fewer in the future, especially as prosecutors, judges and juries have become more aware of the prevalence of wrongful convictions in the prosecution of all crimes and are more guarded against the possibility.
The most common cause of wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification.
Gross, Jacob, Matheson, Montgomery and Patel, Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003, published 2004: p18, Section V Part 1: Rapes and Murders: Mistakes versus Lies (pdf)
In nearly all DNA exonerations there is NO evidence that the victims lied about being raped, just that later evidence has shown that the man originally convicted was not actually the perpetrator of the rape. Exonerations on evidence other than DNA in the USA account for only 14/120 rape exonerations in the period 1989-2003, 13 of those complaining witnesses were determined to have lied. (In the same time period regarding 199 murder exonerations, 43 eyewitnesses were found to have lied, 5 police officers to have committed perjury, 24 forensic scientists to have committed perjury, 94 civilian witnesses claiming knowledge of the crime were found to have lied, and 17 actual murderers lied to secure the defendant’s conviction.)
High rates of exoneration cases tend to cluster around particular prosecutors, and thus should not be extrapolated to apply generally.
Mr. Chatman’s exoneration, which must be approved by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, would mark the 15th time since a new testing law took effect in 2001 that a Dallas County conviction has been discredited by DNA.
Most of those faulty convictions occurred during the tenure of District Attorney Henry Wade, whose office had a national reputation for hard-nosed prosecution.
The majority of the wrongful convictions included lineups or eyewitness identifications that often were uncorroborated by other evidence.
No other county in the nation has had as many exonerations by DNA.
The low rate of rape complaints which actually go to trial, let alone secure a conviction, is such a small sample that it also complicates any simple extrapolation of trends from either conviction or exoneration data.
Innocent people should be set free, and the DNA exonerations of people wrongfully convicted of rape, murder or any other crime are applauded by all who believe in rights and liberty, including feminists. However, there is a big problem with this frequently asked/asserted idea that the exonerations mean that women lie about rape – this keeps on coming up in feminist discussions about acquaintance-rape and the issue of valid consent between people who have a pre-existing relationship as friends/colleagues/neighbours/dates.
Convicted so-called “date-rapists” are not being exonerated by DNA testing, because the defence in such cases is never that intercourse did not occur, the defence is always that the intercourse was consensual rather than coerced. Thus the accused’s DNA is expected to be present, and is irrelevant to the conviction. Therefore, to use DNA exonerations as a point of argument in any discussion of acquaintance-rape is simply invalid.