To date, over 3,300 people in the United States have been wrongly convicted and exonerated for crimes they did not commit. This issue warrants immediate attention and reform. Sadly, many exonerees struggle to receive compensation for their wrongful convictions and have the wrongful convictions expunged from their criminal records. Researchers have begun to examine this complex issue by studying a range of topics regarding wrongful convictions and exonerees. However, little research has focused on factors that influence public perceptions of exonerees and their deservingness of both compensation and expungement. To address this gap in the literature, the current study used a factorial vignette design to examine whether or not three experimental manipulations (prior criminal conviction record, cause of wrongful conviction, and presence/absence of DNA evidence) influenced public perceptions of exonerees and their deservingness of compensation and expungement. To gain a deeper understanding of the cognitive process individuals experience as they perceive exonerees, mediating variables (blame, dangerousness, sympathy, and anger) were also measured. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) online platform was utilized to survey 1,536 participants about their perceptions of exonerees. The results indicated the public generally supports exonerees in that most participants believed they were deserving of compensation and expungement, as well as shed light on factors that influence public perceptions of exonerees. That is, exonerees were generally perceived to be less deserving of compensation and expungement when they had prior criminal conviction records, their false confessions contributed to their wrongful convictions, and DNA evidence was not present in their exonerations. The findings of the current study point to several implications surrounding education and awareness efforts about wrongful convictions, policy reform, and future research to advance the Innocence Movement.


Tyler Vaughan

Committee Member

Pedro Thomas

Committee Member

Jaime Henderson

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)

Program of Study



Humanities and Social Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright