Exonerees Present at the Innocence Conference 2017

This is not just a list. You will get little out of it. Rather, as you watch, think about these people, their families and loved ones, and the years taken away by the criminal justice system. Let the full weight bear down on you. Let the realization grip you that you cannot sit idly by and let this continue.

 

On the first evening of the two-day conference, those who have been exonerated since the last conference are called up to the stage with 4 or 5 pictures projected on the two large screens, recalling some of the details that led to their wrongful conviction and what led to their exoneration. Though I often hear it said that some wrongful convictions take place without any malice by the players in the process, I was struck by how, in almost every instance, there was intentional wrongdoing by police, detectives, prosecutors and/or judges. In one retrial, the jury acquitted a man who had already spent years in prison, and the judge overruled the jury! When asked why, the judge rose, walked out of the room without saying a word. As unusual as that was, it was no less troubling than most of the wrongful convictions of those present that night.

One other change over recent years rang out. In the past, only those who have been truly exonerated, i.e. found not guilty, would be called up. However, there are so many cases where the wrongful conviction becomes evident to everyone, say when a DNA hit identifies the real killer, and rather than withdrawing the charges, the prosecutor offers a deal to let the person, who has already spent decades in prison, out with "time served". They are offerred freedom from prison without the justice of acknowleging their innocence, letting their felony conviction stand. In those cases, the presenter would say to the wrongfully convicted person, we want you to know that a jury of your peers has found you to be innocent, and we stand by you! In a room of a thousand people, the impact of that statement can have a profound effect.

Role of the Press - Two Edged Sword

The press is often, and rightly so, credited with exposing wrongful convictions.

Unfortunately, they also have been used to promote the prosecutor's views and have unwittedly been involved in encouraging wrongful convictions.

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Read this study published by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Guggenheim Foundation.

The Media's Role in Wrongful Convictions:
How 'mob journalism' and media 'tunnel vision' turn journalists into tools of the prosecution
Three Case Studies

Do It Yourself Investigating

Do you have to be a "professional" investigator to have and impact on a wrongful conviction case?

After four lawyers fail to get an innocent man out of prison, his friend takes on the case himself. He becomes a do-it-yourself investigator. He learns to read court records, he tracks down hard-to-find witnesses, he gets the real murderer to come forward with his story. In the end, he's able to accomplish all sorts of things the police and the professionals can't.

 

Podcasts

Forensics

Listen to the briefing of the Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States by the National Academy of Sciences. Requires Real Player

 

Investigations - their nature

Do you have to be a "professional" investigator to have and impact on a wrongful conviction case?

After four lawyers fail to get an innocent man out of prison, his friend takes on the case himself. He becomes a do-it-yourself investigator. He learns to read court records, he tracks down hard-to-find witnesses, he gets the real murderer to come forward with his story. In the end, he's able to accomplish all sorts of things the police and the professionals can't.