Innocence Project
An Innocence Project is one of a number of non-profit legal organizations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted
Miscarriage of justice
A miscarriage of justice primarily is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit. The term can also apply to errors in the other direction—"errors of impunity", and to civil cases. Most criminal justice systems have some means to overturn, or "quash", a wrongful...

 people through the use of DNA testing, and to reforming the criminal justice systems to prevent future injustice.

United States

The Innocence Project was established in the wake of a landmark study by the United States Department of Justice
United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

 and the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, in conjunction with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is the law school of Yeshiva University, located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The school is named for Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo. Cardozo's success as a young school has been remarkable, leading some to characterize Cardozo as a...

, which found that incorrect identification by eyewitnesses was a factor in over 70% of wrongful convictions. The original Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck
Barry Scheck
Barry C. Scheck is an American lawyer. He received national media attention while serving on O.J. Simpson's defense team, winning an acquittal in the highly publicized murder case. Scheck is the director of the Innocence Project and a professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York...

 and Peter Neufeld
Peter Neufeld
Peter Neufeld is an American lawyer and is most famous as a cofounder, with Barry Scheck, of the Innocence Project, located at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law...

 as part of the Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University is a private university in New York City, with six campuses in New York and one in Israel. Founded in 1886, it is a research university ranked as 45th in the US among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2012...

 in New York City. It became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2003, but maintains strong institutional connections with Cardozo.


The Innocence Project is a member of the Innocence Network
Innocence Network
The Innocence Network is an affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.Most organizations involved are...

, which brings together a growing number of innocence organizations from across the United States. It includes members from other English-speaking common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 countries—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

In South Africa, the Wits Justice Project investigates South African incarcerations. In partnership with the Wits Law Clinic, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), the Julia Mashele Trust, and the US Innocence Project, the Justice Project investigates individual cases of prisoners wrongly convicted or awaiting trial.


In addition to working on behalf of those who may have been wrongfully convicted of crimes throughout the United States, the Innocence Project performs research and advocacy related to the causes of wrongful convictions.

Some of the Innocence Project's successes have resulted in rescuing innocent people from Death Row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

. The successes of the project have fueled American opposition to the death penalty and have likely been a factor in the decision by some American states to institute moratoria
Moratorium (law)
A moratorium is a delay or suspension of an activity or a law. In a legal context, it may refer to the temporary suspension of a law to allow a legal challenge to be carried out....

 on judicial executions.

In the decision of District Attorney's Office v. Osborne (2009), US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts wrote that post-conviction challenge "poses to our criminal justice systems and our traditional notions of finality better left to elected officials than federal judges." In a court opinion, another justice wrote that forensic science has "serious deficiencies". Roberts expressed a fear that post-conviction DNA testing risks "unnecessarily overthrowing the established system of criminal justice." The law professor Kevin Jon Heller wrote: "It might lead to a reasonably accurate one."

Wrongful convictions

As of November 2011, 280 people previously convicted of serious crimes in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 had been exonerated by DNA testing since 1989, seventeen of whom had been sentenced to death. Almost all (99%) of the convictions proven to be false were of males, with minority groups also disproportionately represented (approximately 70%).
  • In 2007, after an investigation begun by The Innocence Project, James Calvin Tillman
    James Calvin Tillman
    James Calvin Tillman is a man who was convicted of rape, and served 16.5 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA testing on July 11, 2006...

     was exonerated after serving 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. His sentence was 45 years.

  • In December 2009, James Bain was exonerated by DNA testing for a kidnapping, burglary, and rape he did not commit. Bain's appeal had previously been denied four separate times. His 35-year imprisonment made him the longest-incarcerated victim of a wrongful conviction to be freed through DNA evidence.

  • In June 2010, Barry Gibbs was awarded the largest civil rights settlement by the City of New York
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

     to date of $9.9 million. He received an additional $1.9 million settlement from New York
    New York
    New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

     state in late 2009. He was wrongly convicted of the 1986 murder of Brooklyn
    Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

     prostitute Virginia Robertson based on coerced testimony by a witness during the investigation by NYPD detective Louis Eppolito
    Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa
    Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are two former New York Police Department police detectives who worked on behalf of the New York Mafia while they committed various illegal activities...

    . Gibbs' original sentence was 20 years to life for the murder, of which he served just under 19 years. Gibbs never expressed remorse for his crime to the parole board, on the grounds that he was innocent and had no remorse. Every two years at his review, the board denied his parole because of his lack of remorse. Gibbs was exonerated in 2006 with help from the Innocence Project. In addition, the conviction of former detective Eppolito for his sideline as a mob hit man and the change in testimony by a witness in Gibbs' case helped him.

  • In September 2010, days before he was to be executed, Kevin Keith was granted clemency by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, thanks in part to Ohio's Innocent Project.

In popular culture

  • In the non-fiction book, The Innocent Man
    The Innocent Man
    The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town is a nonfiction book written by John Grisham, and his first outside the legal fiction genre. He tells the story of Ronald 'Ron' Keith Williamson of Ada, Oklahoma, a former minor league baseball player who was convicted in 1988 of the rape and...

    , John Grisham
    John Grisham
    John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

     recounted the case of Dennis Fritz
    Dennis Fritz
    Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were wrongly convicted of the murder of Ada, Oklahoma resident Debra Carter. Fritz was given a life sentence, while Williamson was sentenced to death in 1988. Fritz and Williamson were the subjects of a non-fiction book, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a...

    , who was assisted on appeal by the Innocence Project and freed by DNA evidence, after being wrongfully convicted of the murder of Debra Ann Carter.
  • The Exonerated (2002) is a play by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank about six people who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, but were exonerated.
  • The Innocence Project was featured in the documentary After Innocence
    After Innocence
    After Innocence is a 2005 United States documentary film about men who were exonerated from death row by DNA evidence. Directed by Jessica Sanders, the film took the Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival....

  • Conviction (2010), is a film about the exoneration of Kenneth Waters, who was a client of the Innocence Project. Hilary Swank
    Hilary Swank
    Hilary Ann Swank is an American actress. Swank's film career began with a small part in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then a major part in The Next Karate Kid , as Julie Pierce, the first female protégé of sensei Mr. Miyagi...

     plays Waters' sister Betty Anne, who went to college and law school to fight for his freedom, and Sam Rockwell
    Sam Rockwell
    Sam Rockwell is an American actor known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke and Moon, as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Frost/Nixon, Galaxy Quest, Matchstick Men, The Assassination of...

     plays Waters. Barry Scheck is portrayed by Peter Gallagher
    Peter Gallagher
    Peter Killian Gallagher is an American actor, musician and writer. Since 1980, Gallagher has played many roles in numerous Hollywood films. He starred as Sandy Cohen in the television drama series The O.C. from 2003 to 2007...


See also

  • Capital punishment in the United States
    Capital punishment in the United States
    Capital punishment in the United States, in practice, applies only for aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder. Capital punishment was a penalty at common law, for many felonies, and was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence...

  • List of miscarriage of justice cases
  • Miscarriage of justice
    Miscarriage of justice
    A miscarriage of justice primarily is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit. The term can also apply to errors in the other direction—"errors of impunity", and to civil cases. Most criminal justice systems have some means to overturn, or "quash", a wrongful...

  • The Justice Project (Australia)
    The Justice Project (Australia)
    The Justice Project Inc. is a non-governmental organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. It was incorporated in 2004 in the run up to the 9 October Federal Election. Its first project was to campaign for refugee policy reform and to campaign for human rights in Australia...

  • Medill Innocence Project, Illinois
  • Phantom of Heilbronn
    Phantom of Heilbronn
    The Phantom of Heilbronn, often alternatively referred to as the "Woman Without a Face", was a hypothesized unknown female serial killer whose existence was inferred from DNA evidence found at numerous crime scenes in Austria, France and Germany from 1993 to 2009...

  • Cornelius Dupree
    Cornelius Dupree
    Cornelius Dupree Jr. is an American who was declared innocent of a 1980 conviction for aggravated robbery, which was alleged to have been committed during a rape in 1979. He had been paroled in July 2010, after serving 30 years of a 75-year prison sentence in Texas...

    , exonerated by the Innocence Project
  • Benjamin LaGuer
    Benjamin LaGuer
    Benjamin LaGuer is a convicted rapist serving a life sentence in Massachusetts. He has not acknowledged the crime for which he was convicted, claiming innocence. His case achieved prominence in the late 1980s when reporting by John King discovered a juror who said that other members of the...

    , defended by the Innocence Project
  • Douglas Echols
    Douglas Echols
    Douglas Echols was wrongfully convicted in a 1986 rape case. In 2002, his charges were finally cleared through DNA testing after he served over five years in prison...

    , exonerated by the Innocence Project
  • Anthony McKinney
    Anthony McKinney
    Anthony McKinney is a prisoner accused of killing a security guard in 1978 in Harvey, Illinois. He is the subject of a Medill Innocence Project effort to reinvestigate his case and determine if he was wrongfully convicted. The case obtained notoriety after the Cook County state's attorney...

    , considered for the Medill Innocence Project
  • Anthony Porter
    Anthony Porter
    Anthony Porter was a prisoner on death row whose conviction was overturned in 1999 due to the investigation of two Northwestern University School of Law professors and students from the Medill School of Journalism, and is notable for being an exonerated death row inmate that was once 50 hours away...

    , exonerated by the Medill Innocence Project
  • James Calvin Tillman
    James Calvin Tillman
    James Calvin Tillman is a man who was convicted of rape, and served 16.5 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA testing on July 11, 2006...

    , exonerated by the Innocence Project
  • Ken Wyniemko
    Ken Wyniemko
    Ken Wyniemko is one of two former prisoners in Michigan released on DNA evidence with help from the Innocence Project.Wyniemko was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a prisoner informant, Glen McCormick, who now admits he lied in...

    , exonerated by the Innocence Project
  • Michael Morton (Criminal Justice)
    Michael Morton (Criminal Justice)
    Michael Morton is an American who was convicted in 1987 in a Williamson County, Texas court of the murder of his wife. Recent DNA test results identified under the direction of the Innocence Project support his claim of innocence...

External links

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