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The Innocence Project: Wrongful Convictions

Wrongful Convictions Are Not Isolated, Rare Events


The Innocence Project was created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to examine cases in which DNA testing could yield conclusive proof of innocence.

The project, a non-profit legal clinic, gives law students the opportunity to handle the case work, while supervised by a team of attorneys and clinic staff. The project goes through thousands of applications each year from inmates seeking its services.

Project Takes Only DNA Cases

"Most of our clients are poor, forgotten, and have used up all of their legal avenues for relief," the project web site explains. "The hope they all have is that biological evidence from their cases still exists and can be subjected to DNA testing."

Before The Innocence Project will take on a case, it is subjected to extensive screening to determine if DNA testing would prove the inmate's claim of innocence. Thousands of cases may be in this evaluation process at any given time.

Wrongful Convictions Overturned

The advent of modern DNA testing has literally changed the criminal justice system. DNA cases have provided proof that innocent people are convicted and sentenced by the courts. Thus far, the project claims to have exonerated 146 convicts, 13 of whom were on death row.

"DNA testing has opened a window into wrongful convictions so that we may study the causes and propose remedies that may minimize the chances that more innocent people are convicted," The Innocence Project says.

The success of the project, and the subsequent publicity that it has received due to its involvement in some high-profile cases, has allowed the clinic to expand beyond its original purpose. The clinic is now helping to organize The Innocence Network -- a group of law schools, journalism schools, and public defender officers who help inmates trying to prove their innocence -- whether or not DNA evidence is involved.

DNA Exonerations Increase

    Causes and Remedies of Wrongful Convictions
    The pace of postconviction DNA exonerations continues to grow. Not only has DNA testing proven that these individuals are innocent, it has also shown that our criminal justice system makes mistakes that leave true perpetrators on the streets.

    False Confessions
    In a disturbing number of DNA exoneration cases, defendants have made incriminating statements or delivered outright confessions. These cases demonstrate that a confession or admission is not always prompted by internal knowledge or guilt, but may be motivated by external influences.

    Innocence Project Cases
    Details on more than 140 cases that have been handled by The Innocence Project.

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