Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminal Justice

First Committee Member

Hong Lu

Second Committee Member

Melissa Rorie

Third Committee Member

William Sousa

Fourth Committee Member

Stephen Bates

Number of Pages



There has been an average of approximately 3.9 death penalty exonerations annually in the United States since 1973 (DPIC, 2021). Wrongful convictions and executions constitute grave and irreversible errors. Studies show official misconduct is one of the leading causes for wrongful convictions and exonerations. Misconduct by police, prosecutors, and judges includes a wide range of behaviors such as coercing confessions, depriving rights to legal counsel, threatening witnesses, and concealing evidence. Operating under the due process model, the adversarial legal system is designed to detect and prevent any procedural violations of defendant’s rights, including official misconduct. Utilizing Packer’s (1964) due process and crime control models, and major criminal justice theories such as subculture and rational choice as interpretive frameworks, the current study examines the nature of official misconduct and its impact on exoneration. Drawing on 167 exonerated death penalty cases from the Death Penalty Information Center’s website and employing the content analysis methodology, the current study generated several key findings. First, official misconduct was prevalent among these exonerated death penalty cases, with 60%, 65%, and 17% of the cases involving police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct respectively. Second, major typologies of official misconduct were identified, such as coercing defendants and witness, evidence tampering, and violating procedural rules. Third, police misconduct was significantly correlated with longer exoneration processes and exonerations through forces external to the criminal justice system. Major theoretical and policy implications for the effectiveness of the due process model in error corrections are discussed.


death penalty; error correction; exoneration; official misconduct; wrongful conviction


Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections

File Format


File Size

661 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit