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Read about the latest from the innocence project   :)



Searching for Evidence, Uncovering Misconduct   :)



Evidence and Injustice in New Jersey

Wisconsin Man Cleared After Three Decades

Innocence and the U.S. Constitution

Houston Man Freed, Forensic Questions Persist

Why I Give: A Donor Profile


News from the innocence movement around the United States

Partial Pardons in 'Norfolk Four' Case 


Three of the ‘Norfolk Four’ defendants received conditional pardons this month from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a decade after they were convicted of a murder another man says he committed alone. One of the four defendants was freed in 2005 and not pardoned this month. Lawyers for the group said they were disappointed that the conditional pardons did not fully exonerate the men.

Read more.

Freed After 21 Years

Kenneth Ireland served more than two decades in Connecticut prisons before DNA testing obtained by the Connecticut Innocence Project proved his innocence and led to his release. He was officially cleared on August 19 when prosecutors announced they were dropping all charges against him.

Read more.

The Fight for Freedom

Willie T. Donald has been behind bars for 17 years in Indiana for a murder he says he didn’t commit. The Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University has investigated Donald’s case for two years and the work of journalism students has turned up significant evidence that another man committed the crimes for which Donald was convicted in 1992.

A new multimedia series from the Times of Northwest Indiana investigates the case in depth, and Donald’s appeal will be considered by a judge in October.

Read more.

A Crime Victim Calls for Reform

In 1985, when Michele Mallin was a sophomore at Texas Tech University, she was abducted and raped near campus. She identified Timothy Cole as her attacker and he was convicted of the crime. Cole died in prison of a heart attack in 1999, trying to fight his conviction for a crime he said he didn’t commit.

Earlier this year, DNA testing posthumously exonerated Cole, and Mallin was shocked to learn that the wrong man had been imprisoned for attacking her. She has now become an advocate for reforms to prevent wrongful convictions, and wrote this month in the Houston Chronicle about proposed reforms to prevent injustice.

Read her op-ed here.



Freed in L.A., Facing Retrial

Bruce Lisker was freed this month after spending 26 years in California prisons for the murder of his mother, a crime he says he didn’t commit. A judge freed Lisker because he had been convicted based on “false evidence.” Los Angeles prosecutors announced August 21 that they plan to retry him for the crime.

Read more.

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Evidence and Injustice in New Jersey


At a hearing in New Jersey on Monday, a state judge said he would order police to conduct a thorough search for evidence connected to the case of Stephen Brooks, an Innocence Project client who has been in prison for more than 20 years for a rape he says he didn’t commit.

Brooks was convicted based mainly on eyewitness identification, and he has been seeking DNA testing since 1988. His case is an example of the difficulties in finding evidence from old cases in Essex County, New Jersey. Innocence Project Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin said recently that evidence in Essex County is in 'unique disarray,' and a Star Ledger editorial this week said the situation is "not just sloppy record keeping" but "sloppy justice." Learn more about Brooks’ case here.

Brooks is not alone in his struggle to locate the evidence that could prove him innocent. More than 20% of cases closed by the Innocence Project since 2004 were closed because of lost or missing evidence. Often, DNA testing is the last resort for these prisoners, and the loss of evidence means never having a chance to prove their innocence, spending additional years in prison and possibly dying behind bars. In other cases, DNA evidence has at first been reported missing but later found after a more thorough search was conducted.

More than 30 states have passed laws requiring that at least some evidence be preserved in criminal cases. New Jersey has no such law, but the state Attorney General has the authority to issue a mandate to clean up evidence storage facilities across the state as an interim step while stakeholders develop a policy.

Find out about evidence preservation laws in your state with our interactive map.

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Wisconsin Man Cleared After Three Decades 


A judge this month dismissed all charges against Ralph Armstrong, who has spent nearly 30 years in Wisconsin prisons for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit. The Innocence Project has worked with Armstrong’s attorneys since 1993, one year after Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld founded the organization. (Above, left to right, Scheck and Armstrong) Prosecutors announced last week that they would not appeal the decision, meaning Armstrong was fully cleared of this crime. He remains in custody and may be transported to New Mexico because he was on parole there when he was wrongfully arrested in the Wisconsin case.

The prosecutorial misconduct in this case is among the worst the Innocence Project has ever witnessed. Prosecutors received evidence that Armstrong was innocent — and that his brother was the actual perpetrator — in 1995 and hid that evidence even though Armstrong’s case was on appeal at the time. His conviction was overturned in 2005 based on DNA testing that confirmed his innocence, but he remained in prison for four years while prosecutors sought to retry him. During those four years, prosecutors deliberately violated a court order and sabotaged additional evidence in the case.

Read more about Armstrong’s case here.

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Innocence and the U.S. Constitution

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a lower court to review new evidence of innocence in the case of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis. The Innocence Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Davis’ behalf. The Supreme Court’s decision illustrates a growing national awareness of the shortcomings of eyewitness identification and the need to fully review new evidence of innocence. Innocence Project Staff Attorney Ezekiel Edwards discussed the Davis case shortly after the decision came down — watch the video here.

The Davis decision came in the wake of the court’s 5-4 ruling in June that Innocence Project client William Osborne was not entitled to DNA testing that could prove him innocent of a 1993 rape. Osborne is imprisoned in Alaska, one of three states without a law providing at least some prisoners with access to DNA testing when it has the potential to prove innocence. The Innocence Project has argued that prisoners have a constitutional right to DNA testing that can prove them innocent.

These two cases have led to different results at the Supreme Court. But both have stirred uproar from liberal and conservative editorial boards and legal observers alike, all expressing outrage that the Supreme Court has not been clearer on the right to prove innocence. Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia specifically noted in his dissent in the Davis case: “This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” The majority, however, clearly found that the risk of executing an innocent man was intolerable.

For updates on both cases as they develop, subscribe to the Innocence Blog’s daily email digest or RSS feed.

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Houston Man Freed, Forensic Questions Persist

Ernest Sonnier spent 23 years in Texas prisons for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project proved his innocence — and implicated two other men as the real perpetrators of the crime. When he was freed earlier this month, he was greeted at the courthouse by five generations of relatives and two other Innocence Project clients who had been exonerated before him and came to support him on his first day of freedom.

Sonnier was wrongfully convicted in 1986 based on a questionable eyewitness identification as well as improperly conducted and presented forensic tests. His is the latest in a string of cases where DNA testing has overturned a wrongful conviction caused by faulty forensics in the Houston Police Department Crime Lab. An independent audit found extensive problems, and many of the cases identified in the audit have yet to be reopened. The audit did not examine cases the lab handled after 2002, but sections of the lab have been shut down multiple times since then, affecting an unknown number of cases.

Read more about Sonnier’s case, and take action to support federal forensic reform.

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Why I Give: Freida Orange
Marketing & Communications Vice President
New York, NY

I’m a member of the Innocence Project’s Young Professionals Committee, which helps raise funds and awareness for the organization through events and outreach. I followed this movement for years before I joined the committee, but I was never sure how I could help. These cases are so complex, it can seem daunting for non-lawyers to get involved. Since I started, however, I’ve learned that there are lots of opportunities to advocate on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. All of our voices count, and as our calls to free the innocent and reform the system grow louder, judges, prosecutors and lawmakers are taking notice.

As I’ve told friends about this work and invited them to become involved, almost all of them are shocked at the injustice and eager to help. People connect with different aspects of the issue, and they can focus their advocacy on specific parts of the work. It’s easy to get involved — check out the Innocence Project’s “Ten Things You Can Do” page to get started. You can volunteer, share information about this issue with lawmakers or spread the word in your community through house parties or other events.

One of the most critical needs is often overlooked — securing compensation for exonerees and providing services immediately upon their release. It’s painful to think about people who should never have been in prison being freed without any support. I was shocked to learn that many states don’t have systems in place to support the exonerated. Although about half of the states have some kind of compensation law, not one of them gives exonerees any immediate assistance after their release. In 2008, the Young Professionals Committee held an event to support the Innocence Project’s Exoneree Fund, which provides clients with basic necessities like food and housing immediately after their release. The exonerated deserve another chance at life, and we can help make this happen.

Please consider making a gift to the Exoneree Fund today to help make a new life possible. 

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