Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Criminal Justice

Degree Program

Criminal Justice, PhD

Committee Chair

Higgins, George E.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Member

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Member

Andreescu, Viviana

Committee Member

Vito, Gennaro

Committee Member

Marcum, Catherine

Author's Keywords

wrongful conviction; exoneration; racial and ethnic disparity exoneration; time to exoneration; exoneree


Wrongful convictions take years from an individual’s life, rob them of the comfort and presence of their family, rip them from their place in the community, and subject them to the harsh pains of imprisonment. Exonerees can spend years and even decades in the pursuit of proving innocence and obtaining an exoneration. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of race and ethnicity upon time-to-exoneration through the lens of focal concerns theory. Focal concerns theory has been used to demonstrate that criminal justice actors are influenced by legal and extralegal factors in decision making and rely on stereotypes to assess blameworthiness, protection of the community, and in navigating practical constraints and consequences. Utilizing data obtained from the National Registry of Exonerations (N =507) survival analysis was performed. The findings indicate that black exonerees experienced a longer time-to-exoneration than did white exonerees and that Hispanic exonerees experienced the shortest time-to-exoneration of all. The legal components of a case were found to affect time-to-exoneration. The impact of these factors affected the racial and ethnic groups differently, resulting in detrimental impact to minorities. The findings offer support for focal concerns theory in the demonstration that racial and ethnic differences are present in time to exoneration resulting in disparities which disadvantage minorities. Further support for focal concerns theory is found in that the legal components of a case are shown to be associated with racial and ethnic differences in time-to-exoneration.