adjective: tending or serving to clear from alleged fault or guilt
The DNA found at the crime scene proved to be exculpatory; it did not match that of the defendant, and so he was acquitted.
“Authorities also were faulted for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, including an initial statement by Herrington to police that two men he identified as Jim and Ed were the real killers.” — Jim Dey, The News-Gazette (Champaign, Illinois), July 19, 2015
Did you know?
Exculpatory is the adjectival form of the verb exculpate, meaning “to clear from guilt.” The pair of words cannot be accused of being secretive—their joint etymology reveals all: they are tied to the Latin verb exculpatus, a word that combines the prefix ex-, meaning “out of” or “away from,” with the Latin noun culpa, meaning “blame.” The related but lesser-known terms inculpate and inculpatory are antonyms of exculpate and exculpatory. Inculpate means “to incriminate” and inculpatory means “incriminating.” A related noun, culpable, means “meriting condemnation or blame for doing something wrong.”