Help Free the Innocent
With the generous support of individuals like you, the Innocence Project has exonerated scores of innocent people and worked around the country to reform our criminal justice system.
What You’re Saying
Cali T., via Facebook, on a Kentucky bill that would expand access to post-conviction DNA testing: “Doing a DNA test to ‘confirm’ they have the right person is the morally correct thing to do. DNA does not lie or have an agenda. It is simply what it is. Justice is not about locking up the wrong people and executing them. DNA testing should be a right. There is little doubt that it will free some and it will confirm that others will remain behind bars. Imagine all the cold cases DNA testing could and will clear.”
Thousands Take Action for Thomas Arthur
Nearly 4,000 Innocence Project advocates have sent letters to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, asking him to allow attorneys for Thomas Arthur to conduct DNA testing that could prove his innocence and save his life. Arthur’s March 29th execution date has been stayed for now pending review by a federal appeals court on whether the district court erred in rejecting a claim about the drugs being used in the execution. But this appeal won’t resolve the issue regarding DNA testing. Even though another man has confessed to the murder Arthur has been convicted of and his attorneys have requested permission to do advanced DNA testing on evidence that all parties agree came from the perpetrator of the crime, the state refuses to grant Arthur access to the evidence for testing.
Arthur’s defense team is willing to pay to have the evidence tested using more sophisticated testing methods than were used by the state, which were inconclusive. Since this evidence could prove Arthur's innocence, the Innocence Project continues to call on Alabama authorities to allow the defense team to conduct this testing.
Learn more about Thomas Arthur's case.
New York Passes DNA Databank Expansion
The New York State Legislature has passed and Governor Cuomo has signed into law a massive expansion of New York’s DNA database. Though hailed by law enforcement as a wrongful conviction reform, this expansion is in fact primarily another law enforcement tool; it is only of marginal help to those seeking to avoid wrongful conviction.
In the past, database expansion to low level crimes was tied to reforms that would go much further in reducing wrongful convictions by improving police interrogation and identification techniques. This year, those reforms were not seriously considered along with expansion.
While it was disappointing that the database bill passed without the wrongful conviction reforms, Gov. Cuomo has pledged his support for the reforms, which include mandatory videotaping of interrogations and improvements to police identification procedures. Innocence Project activists in New York have been very helpful in this fight, with one targeted Albany decision maker telling our policy staff to “shut it off,” after his inbox was flooded with e-mails from New Yorkers demanding wrongful conviction reforms. The enthusiasm of New Yorkers to see these reforms implemented assures us that we will be able to convince lawmakers that New York must follow the lead of neighbors in New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as states across the nation, in the not-too-distant future.
60 Minutes Profiles Michael Morton
Michael Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison for murdering his wife, Christine, until DNA testing proved his innocence and implicated the real perpetrator. Since his December exoneration, the Texas Supreme Court has ordered a Court of Inquiry to determine whether the prosecutor committed wrongdoing by concealing evidence of Morton’s innocence from the defense.
Sunday, March 25, 60 Minutes ran an interview with Michael and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck, chronicling Michael’s conviction, exoneration and where he is today. In addition, we published a Q&A we had with Michael, just prior to his interview. You can watch the 60 Minutes piece here and read our interview here.
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
San Diego, CA
It’s hard to understand the devastation a wrongful conviction can cause until it happens to you or your family. My cousin was convicted of an armed robbery he didn’t commit, based only on eyewitness identification. I was in the courtroom gallery when the victim pointed at him and said: "That’s the guy." That’s powerful evidence in front of a jury, but I’ve learned through this experience and by reading about Innocence Project exonerations that eyewitness misidentifications happen all the time. My cousin served a year in prison before he was released. He was fortunate to have a supportive family and legal assistance, and he appealed his conviction right away. Eight alibi witnesses confirmed that he was hundreds of miles from the crime scene, and the victim recanted her identification. He was released, but spending even a day in prison for a crime you didn’t commit is an unimaginable form of suffering.
Here in California, it seems the criminal justice system is built around convictions, not fair justice. The system is set up to get plea bargains, so prosecutors ask for tough sentences hoping the defendant will plead to less time. They are still using jailhouse informants who will say anything in exchange for a lighter sentence or release to help get convictions. Unreliable eyewitness identifications are introduced as evidence everyday. All of this combines to catch innocent people in a system where they don’t belong. Faced with informants, misidentifications and the threat of a long sentence, it’s understandable why an innocent person would take a guilty plea. It’s a broken system and it needs to be fixed.
My personal experience opened my eyes to these issues, and I don’t think the general public thinks about problems in our courts and our prisons in their daily lives. I donate to the Innocence Project because the innocent need to be freed, and the American people need to hear that these injustices are occurring in our name.