Category Archives: Project Spotlights

Saturday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Ohio Innocence Project wins new trial in Roger Dean Gillispie rape case based on new evidence of alternative suspect.  Decision here
  • DNA frees innocent man, but not in typical way; he was in jail for failure to pay child support and DNA testing proved the child wasn’t his
  • Article about many successes of Innocence Project of Florida
  • Baltimore police department moving toward recorded interrogations
  • Michigan Innocence Clinic case is stalled because, astonishingly, the court has lost all the filings and paperwork in the clinic’s post-conviction murder case
  • Full version of documentary 6,149 Days, the story of the wrongful conviction of Greg Taylor in North Carolina
  • Great Wall Street Journal article on weakness of eyewitness id

Northwestern U’s Center on Wrongful Convictions Wins Prestigious Award…

From a CWC press release…

The Center on Wrongful Convictions and Better Government Association are the recipients of the Radio and Television Digital News Association’s prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for a 2011 investigation into the costs of Illinois wrongful convictions.

The  CWC/BGA investigation, which was released last July, found that wrongful convictions had cost Illinois taxpayers $214 million in recent years and kept innocent men and women behind bars for 926 years. For details, see

Motown Legend Gladys Knight Headlines Oklahoma IP Gala Tonight…

Full story here:

Gladys Knight

Grammy Award-winning singer Gladys Knight will headline the Oklahoma City University School of Law‘s “A Night for the Innocent” gala Thursday at the historic Farmers Public Market

The black-tie gala benefits OCU Law’s Oklahoma Innocence Project (OIP), which seeks to rectify wrongful convictions in Oklahoma.

“A Night for the Innocent” will include food, fine wine and a live auction, in addition to Knight’s performance of hits such as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and the No. 1 smash “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The reception starts at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.

Honorary co-chairs Melvin and Jasmine Moran and Jerry and Jackie Bendorf will present the Beacon of Justice Award to Drew Edmondson, Barry and Becky Switzer and Dr. R. Cullen and Bonnie Thomas.

Read more:

A Suggestion for Virginia: Step Up Efforts to Locate Convicted Persons Excluded by DNA

Last Wednesday, James Moses Glass, 56, was indicted for the 1978 rape of a William & Mary coed. For more than 25 years this crime wrongfully defined Bennett Barbour as a rapist. He served 4-1/2 years in prison, which cost him his marriage, marred his relationship with his daughter, and labeled him a violent felon. Two years ago, as a result of Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s 2005 order to retest all DNA samples obtained from 1973 to 1988, Barbour was excluded as the rapist. The DNA instead linked James Glass to the crime. Glass was in the database due to a 1979 rape conviction in New York. But, if it weren’t for a private attorney’s pro bono efforts, Barbour might never have known that the innocence he has always claimed finally had been proven.

According to a Richmond Times-Dispatch article here 76 felons have been excluded as the source of the DNA evidence in their cases, but as of January of this year, 29 of those still assumed living had not been notified of these results. It seems that Virginia hasn’t been very successful in notifying those who would benefit most from the results (or apparently of notifying the crime victims or of reinvestigating the cases where conviction error is suspected).  Private Continue reading

Innocence Project Model Highlighted at 2012 NCIP Event

The non-profit legal clinic known as the Innocence Project, founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, has inspired and informed a network of 66 Innocence Projects today spanning the U.S. and the globe. The Northern California Innocence Project’s (NCIP) Fifth Annual Freedom for All Dinner last evening in San Jose highlighted this successful model. Winning post-conviction reversals of wrongful convictions requires  dedication, persistent hard work, and the leadership of Innocence Projects’ lawyers, staff, and law students, combined with important support from many others.

The NCIP utilizes its annual Justice For All Dinner to celebrate hard-won victories, raise critical financial resources, and recognize their partners in the pursuit of justice. Among last evening’s recognized colleagues… Continue reading

New Oklahoma Innocence Project Becomes 66th Member of Innocence Network…

From Network release:

Welcome to Oklahoma Innocence Project! Tiffany Murphy is the Director, Christina Green is the IP Fellow, and Joyce Mayer is the Legal Assistant.  You can contact the project here:

Oklahoma Innocence Project

2501 N. Blackwelder Ave.

Oklahoma City, OK 73106 (website under construction and will officially open on April 12th, after OIP’s fundraising gala

Congratulations to Oklahoma Innocence Project!

An Inside Look at an Innocence Project, from the Students’ Perspective…

The Medill Innocence Project (Northwestern University) has released a 7-part series of videos covering everything from the investigation into particular cases to the inner-working of the office.  Very interesting stuff.  Check out the series here.

Thoughts on the Oklahoma Innocence Collaboration Act

The newly formed Oklahoma Innocence Project, headed by well-known innocence attorney Tiffany Murphy, is working with legislators to pass the Oklahoma Innocence Collaboration Act.  A House subcommittee passed the bill 9-0 last month, and it now is heading to Appropriations and Budgets Committee.  The bill appears to set up a mandated structure where the Oklahoma Innocence Project could send cases it felt involved problematic scientific analysis for review to the forensic labs at University of Central Oklahoma.  The university department would analyze the case and write a report, and then the case would be sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, which would review the findings and take action if necessary.

I wonder how this system will work in practice.  The structure seems to take the case out of the adversarial system.  Instead of relying on their own experts to evaluate the case, and then present those findings in court, the case will be reviewed by state officials (at the Oklahoma Innocence Project’s referral), who, as anyone in this field knows, often suffer from tunnel vision or are loathe to admit a mistake.  The attacks by prosecutors last week against the North Carolina Innocence Commission are just one recent example of this problem.

But the following quote from the bill’s sponsor caught my attention:

“We’re the only state that doesn’t allow people that are incarcerated when new evidence comes along to use that evidence to prove their innocence.”

Can this actually be true?  Oklahoma doesn’t have a “motion for new trial” rule or Continue reading

Meet the Wits Justice Project (South Africa)

The Wits Justice Project at Witswatersrand University in Johannesburg formed in 2008,  modeled on the Innocence Projects the U.S.  The Project is based in the journalism school at Wits U., thus is similar in nature to the projects at Northwestern (Medill Innocence Project) and the Innocence Institute of Point Park University.

I visited the Wits Justice Project in 2010 and learned a lot about their set-up and the unique challenges they face in South Africa.  Their operations are impressive.   They have a larger staff, infrastructure and office space than most projects in the U.S. and U.K.  And they are aggressive and do good work, having already obtained freedom for 2 clients and held a major conference to raise awareness in South Africa.  This article, entitled Crusaders for the Innocent, gives a good overview of the program.

Me, Michele Berry-Godsey, Jeremy Gordin and other members of the Wits Justice Project

Fighting for the innocent in South Africa includes a unique facet that doesn’t exist in many other legal systems.  WJP summarizes the problem as follows:

In its 2010/2011 Annual Report3, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services gave the number of inmates in the country as 160,545. Of these, 47,880 (30%) are remand detainees and have been behind bars, some for years, waiting for their trials to begin or reach conclusion. Yet approximately 2 in 5 of these inmates will eventually be acquitted. This means that a staggering number of innocent people are being deprived of their freedom

The Wits Justice Project_2012 Annual Plan is quite ambitious, and includes production of a documentary television series to raise awareness in South Africa of wrongful conviction and lengthy pretrial detention of the innocent.

In January, famed journalist and former director Jeremy Gordin left the project and was replaced by Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi.  Before joining WJP as project coordinator, Nooshin was the humanitarian diplomacy senior officer of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, working in the 49 sub-Saharan African countries.

Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, WJP project coordinator

The rest of the WJP team, and their biographies, can be found here.

Newest Australian Miscarriages of Justice Campaign Group

Perth, Western Australia will be home to an international conference of legal and forensic experts next month, hosted by ‘Justice WA’ – a new campaign group that is hoping to take on its first case next year and wants to establish a criminal cases committee to investigate miscarriages of justice. Read more on the conference here…. You can visit JusticeWA website here…