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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.