Miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions are a pervasive reality in America's criminal justice system. In this paper we examine news coverage of miscarriages of justice in the death penalty system and the release of death row inmates to understand what we call the public life of exonerations. We examine the way newspapers tell the story of exonerations and the various tilts and tendencies that characterize their presentations. We focus on the five states which, from 1972–2019, had ten or more exonerations. During that period, they were Florida, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. We conclude that the public discourse surrounding exoneration, while providing evidence of the death penalty system's most consequential flaws, serves as much to preserve that system as to challenge it.