DNA Exonerations and Stakeholder Responses: A Case of Cognitive Dissonance?

Anne Richardson-Oakes, Julian Killingley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The availability of DNA testing developed in the 1980s transformed the ability of prosecutors to secure convictions while providing Innocence Projects with the tools to overturn them. However, DNA exonerations which establish conclusively that a person convicted of a crime is in fact innocent, can represent a major threat to the value systems and therefore the self-belief of stakeholders who acted in good faith and in the genuine but mistaken belief that the exoneree was guilty. This Article reports on the findings of an investigation into stakeholder responses to DNA exonerations between 1990-1999 when DNA evidence was new and more likely to be met with skepticism?and the second period 2010?2019 by which time DNA testing had become a routine aspect of police criminal investigative procedure. The research detected little or no difference between the two periods, leading to the conclusion that, to the extent that the responses indicate continuing belief in the guilt of the exoneree, an explanation couched in terms of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias might be appropriate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-148
    Number of pages40
    JournalTennessee Law Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusAccepted/In press (AAM) - 1 Jun 2022


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