Exonerations & Wrongful Convictions
When the system gets it wrong, no one wins and everyone is left in emotional turmoil.
Some exonerations are done with DNA evidence, which unequivocally exonerates the person wrongfully accused of the crime. Other convictions are overturned based on legal challenges that can still leave many unanswered questions and a belief that, while the courts have exonerated the person, they are still the person who committed the crime. This is a disturbing set of circumstances for the exonerated, the victims/survivors, and the community.
It is important to note that post-conviction appeals happen at the local level and are usually dealt with the original court jurisdiction who prosecuted the case. The county district attorney's office should contact the crime victim/survivor(s) when a post-conviction relief appeal (PCRA) is filed. There will always be a PCRA hearing before any determinations are made.
Sometimes, cases are appealed to a higher court, such as the PA Superior Court or the PA Supreme Court. In those instances, a decision could be rendered and no advanced notice is given to anyone. Often, crime victims/survivors learn about their case status in the media. Unfortunately, the courts do not notify OVA when a ruling happens. It is important to stay connected with OVA and your county district attorney's office to ensure notifications of any and all events in your case.
The agony and confusion in the aftermath of being wrongfully accused of a crime is compounded by real loss. Loss of freedom, privileges, status, career, family, reputation and emotion and mental well-being. Currently, PA does not have a mandatory process of restoring the person in a financial way back to pre-accusation status. Many times, the wrongfully accused must seek civil redress to allow for compensation.
Conversely, crime victims are left with unanswered questions, guilt, confusion and grief. Victim services are available in all counties within the Commonwealth, providing hope, healing and restoration.
OVA offers Victim Offender Dialogue – for state cases - as an opportunity to bring the accused and the victim of crime together in a facilitated dialogue that can aide in healing, resolution and restoration.