Written by Marvin & Greta Zalman

PI attends the Michigan Bar Association’s Biennial Criminal Law Section’s Policy Conference on Mackinac Island

▪ PI Board Member Julie Baumer addresses lawyer and judges
▪ Book author donates half the proceeds of sales to PI

The conference, held at the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island, June 8-10, focused on “conviction integrity.” Most of the participants were actively involved in innocence work or familiar with wrongful conviction issues. PI Legal Advisor Greta Zalman and Senior Advisor Marvin Zalman attended the conference.

baumer120Exonerees Julie Baumer, a PI Board member, and Thomas Highers related their moving personal experiences at the Criminal Law Section’s Biennial Policy Conference on June 9. The session also included attorneys Val Newman of SADO and Gabi Silver. Julie described the contribution of Proving Innocence to an audience of judges, assistant prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Brochures describing PI were available and many attendees took extra copies to give to colleagues and friends.


Well known consultant and former Washington, D.C. detective James Trainum discussed reforms, like video recording, to reduce the number of false confessions. Trainum saw the need for reform while reinvestigating one of his own cases in which he found the confession to be false. He proposed a new, less aggressive method of interrogation, known as “investigative interviewing,” which is successfully applied in Great Britain.

Mr. Trainum had copies of his recently published book for sale: How the Police Generate False Confessions: An Inside Look at the Interrogation Room (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Upon learning of the role played by Proving Innocence, he announced he would donate half of his royalties of the book sales at the conference to PI. Thank you, Mr. Trainum!!!

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Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny spoke on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and best practices designed to reduce eyewitness error. An update on the state of forensic science, emphasizing wrongful conviction in arson cases, was made by Michigan Innocence Clinic attorney Imran Syed. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Hindelang discussed the complex details of setting up a program for Detroit police officers to wear body cameras. 

A panel of three judges—retired trial and Court of Appeals Judge Alton Davis, Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph Farah, and federal District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow—commented on “bad lawyering” as a cause of wrongful convictions. They provided pointers for effective representation while acknowledging the underfunding and overwork of many defense attorneys.

Another multi-member panel on Abusive Head Trauma dealt with issues revolving around the Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) controversy. Michigan Innocence Clinic director Dave Moran reviewed many of the problems with SBS theory and convictions. Wayne County assistant prosecutor Dan Hebel argued for prosecuting SBS cases. Dr. Carl Schmidt, Chief Medical Examiner for Wayne County, presented graphic slides to explain these categories of abuse.

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