The Innocence Network Conference is a national event that brings together members of the innocence movement and others for two days of plenary and breakout sessions. The 2023 event, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Innocence Network Conference, was held at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix, AZ on April 13-15, and featured sessions on the themes of resistance, resilience, and hope. The conference was attended by more than 900 people, including over 300 freed or exonerated men and women, as well as their families, Innocence Network organizations, and advocates from across the globe.
Michigan freed and exonerated individuals and advocates were very well represented at the 2023 conference and included 2022 exonerees C’Quan Hinton, Dartanian Edwards, Jeff Titus, Anthony Kyles, Kelvin Nolen, and Ronnell Johnson. Also attending from Michigan were Tonia Miller, Ken Nixon, Marvin Cotton, Jr., Eric Anderson, Mark Craighead, Walter Forbes, Ronald Simpson-Bey, Hakim Crampton, Terry Ceasor, Larry Smith, Ramon Ward, Richard Phillips, Darrell Siggers, and Ron Keine (New Mexico).
Top-Left: Elisha Anderson: 2022 Jim Dwyer Award for Journalism
Top-Right: Women’s Welcome Reception: Co-hosted by Proving Innocence and Facilitated by Zieva Konvisser
Bottom-Left: Freed & Exonerated Women Speak Out – Hear Our Voices
Panel Discussion with Zieva Konvisser and Tonia Miller
Bottom-Right: National Organization of Exonerees: Marvin Cotton, Jr., Ken Nixon, Ciera Renee’, Eric Anderson
Other Michigan supporters and advocates included: Proving Innocence Board Member Ken Bernard; family member Roeiah Epps-Ward; David Moran, Imran Syed, Elizabeth Cole, Dre Alvarado, Elijah Ayala, Will Brodt, Micayla Brugellis, Sam Clougher, Naomi Farahan, Erika Farmer, Micaela Grassi, Liv Torres, and Brittany Warren from the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan Innocence Clinic; Marla Mitchell-Cichon, Tracy Brame, Ann Garant, Daniella Mizhericher, and Jessa Webber from Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School Innocence Project; Valerie Newman and Chastity Youngblood from Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office; Beth Greenberg-Morrow and Tracy Walton from Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; Gail Pamukov from Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office; Lindsay Abramson from Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office; Attorney Wolfgang Mueller; and PI Matt “M” Love.
Special Guest was Elisha Anderson who was awarded the 2022 Jim Dwyer Award for Journalism for her coverage of the cases of Anthony Kyles and Juwan Deering for the Detroit Free Press. She was honored for not only telling their stories but also for highlighting the role incentivized witnesses played in their wrongful convictions and bringing attention to safeguards such as jailhouse informant tracking systems that could prevent similar injustices in the future. Proving Innocence joins the Network in being proud of Elisha’s incredible work.
Zieva Konvisser represented Proving Innocence and Wayne State University Department of Criminal Justice and continued her passion to give voice to the innocent women who have been wrongfully convicted, freed, or exonerated so that the audience hears their important messages and are moved to action. She facilitated the Women’s Welcome Reception, co-sponsored by Proving Innocence, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, the Women's Criminal Justice Network, and Healing Justice. She also organized and moderated the panel, Freed & Exonerated Women Speak Out – Hear Our Voices, on which Michigan exoneree Tonia Miller was one of the four panelists.
Exonerees Kenneth Nixon, Marvin Cotton, Jr., and Eric Anderson, founders of the Organization of Exonerees, along with therapist Ciera Renee’, presented firsthand accounts of their individual and collective experiences with The Nuances and Complexities of Reentry and the Associated Mental Trauma. Imran Syed presented Exploring New Frontiers: How to Frame and Litigate Emerging Shifts in Social Science and he and David Moran facilitated a Federal Habeas Corpus Litigation Workshop. Liz Cole spoke on a panel about Screening Non-DNA Cases. Hakim Crampton and Ronald Simpson-Bey of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) facilitated two workshops for freed/exonerated people: Principles of Effective Leadership and Policy 101: Political Advocacy for Those Wrongly Convicted. Kudos to all!
The conference was truly a special opportunity for learning, healing, connecting, and remembrance. Hopefully, you all will be able to attend and participate in next year’s conference to witness and feel for yourselves these special moments! It will be held March 22-23, 2024, at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana. Watch for early bird registration opening in December!