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Researchers say plea bargains actually send innocent defendants to jail

Brian Banks

Brian Banks, exonerated of rape, pled "no contest" to charges as a teenager. Researchers say many innocent people take plea deals.

Wrongful convictions happen fairly regularly, it seems, from examining statistics from the University of Michigan's Law School. What's more shocking is how many people actually plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit.

Brian Banks is probably the most famous recent example. The young man, once a football star at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, spent over five years in prison for rape. Last month, a judge exonerated Banks, clearing both his name and possibly his path to a professional sports career. 

One of the hardest questions to answer about Banks' case (and there are several) is why the then-17-year-old pled "no contest" to the charges instead of fighting what folks are now saying was a porous case against him. Outside the Long Beach courthouse in May, moments after being exonerated, Banks told reporters he had taken the plea deal out of fear: attorneys had told him if he didn't, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. 


Long Beach football stand-out Brian Banks to try out for NFL teams weeks after being exonerated of rape charges

brian banks

AP Photo/California Western School of Law

This undated image provided by the California Western School of Law shows Brian Banks, who was exonerated after challenging his 2002 rape conviction during a hearing scheduled for Thursday May 24, 2012, after his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, recently recanted her testimony.

Brian Banks was a star middle linebacker for Long Beach Polytechnic High School before a rape accusation sent him to prison for over five years. Last week, Banks finally put an end to that period of his life when a Long Beach judge exonerated him

Outside the courthouse, Banks said he's been working out non-stop for the last 6 months, hoping that after his name was cleared, he could finally pursue his dream of playing professional football. Banks' lawyer, Justin Brooks, told the crowd that NFL teams should be lining up to get Banks, whom he called the most determined young man he's ever met. 

Apparently they listened, because Banks today announced that he'll be trying out with the Seattle Seahawks on June 7—one of six teams that's contacted him in the past few days.