N.J. Supreme Court Orders Major Shift on Eyewitness Evidence
The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision yesterday that will require courts to greatly expand the factors that courts and juries consider in assessing the risk of misidentification. The impact of the ruling will affect how courts nationwide deal with this critical issue.
The new changes are designed to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions by taking into account more than 30 years of scientific research on eyewitness identification and memory.
“The court has recognized the tremendous fallibility of eyewitness identifications, and based on the most thorough review of scientific research undertaken by a court, has set up comprehensive and practical guidelines for how judges and juries should handle this important evidence,” Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said yesterday.
Read more about the ruling in today’s New York Times and download the full decision from our site.
25 Years Later, Still Fighting for Exoneration
New DNA tests provide strong proof that Michael Morton has served 25 years in Texas prisons for a murder he didn’t commit.
The Innocence Project has fought for six years to get DNA testing on key evidence in Morton’s case. Williamson County prosecutor John Bradley has continually blocked Morton’s path to testing. The state’s highest criminal court overruled Bradley’s objections last year, ruling that Morton had a right to DNA tests under state law. The new results point to Morton’s innocence and implicate another man in the crime.
Bradley’s office is reinvestigating the case, and a Texas judge has called for a progress report on the investigation by September 27. The Innocence Project, meanwhile, has questioned Bradley’s impartiality in the case. He is the former chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and has been widely criticized by media outlets for his impartial handling of that panel’s investigation of the Cameron Todd Willingham case. In a Houston Chronicle column on Monday, Rick Casey wrote that “there’s a good chance that (Bradley’s) obstinacy in the Morton case not only kept an innocent man in prison five years longer than necessary, but also may have enabled the real murderer to do more harm during that time.”
Morton is pictured above on a 2010 prison visit with his parents. Read more about his case here.
Join 66,700 Advocates in Calling for Justice in Chicago
DNA proves that nine Chicago men were convicted in the 1990s of crimes they didn’t commit, but prosecutors still won’t agree to overturn their convictions. Five of the men are still behind bars today, and we need your voice to help obtain justice in their cases. Above are Innocence Project clients Jonathan Barr (left) and Michael Saunders (right).
We launched a petition this month in partnership with Color of Change, the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project. Already more than 66,700 people have signed their names to urge Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to do the right thing.
Please join us by signing the petition today — we’re planning to deliver the signatures in person next week and want to make sure your voice is heard.
The nine men were convicted of two separate murders three years and 12 miles apart, but their cases bear striking similarities. All nine were teenagers when they were arrested. Seven of them confessed under pressure, and all seven have since said the confessions were coerced during intense interrogations.
DNA test results from key evidence in both cases implicates other perpetrators who have committed similar crimes, but Cook County prosecutors have attempted to downplay the evidence, arguing to keep the convictions of these nine young men intact.
Sign the petition today to call for justice in Cook County.
New Multimedia Resource: Getting it Right
We launched a new multimedia resource on our website last week, featuring videos and interactive content on the central causes of wrongful convictions.
The new “Getting it Right” widget includes videos on eyewitness identification, false confessions, unvalidated forensics, law enforcement and defense representation. Also included are stories of exonerated individuals and background research to dig deeper into each issue. The project was made possible by a partnership with Brandon Garrett, the author of “Convicting the Innocent,” a recent book on the causes of wrongful conviction, and support from the Foundation to Promote Open Society.
The widget and videos are available for bloggers and other organizations to embed on their site. Click here to get the code for your site.
Explore the new web feature and watch the videos here.
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
I first learned about the work of the Innocence Project several years ago, after a family member suffered unjust treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system. The experience opened my eyes to the fact that we aren’t all treated as “innocent until proven guilty.” Money matters in the system, and poor defendants often have the cards stacked against them.
There are fatal flaws in our criminal justice system, and I know now that there are innocent people behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. Inadequate defense representation creates an uneven playing field. Too many people are blindsided into taking plea deals for crimes they didn’t commit. People end up falling through the cracks.
I donate to the Innocence Project not only because of their noble work to overturn wrongful convictions, but also because they seek to provide a balance badly needed in a system that has veered far from the one that our founding fathers created.
I also frequently share news from the Innocence Project’s Facebook page with my friends because I feel that educating my generation will go a long way toward fixing the inequalities in the system. The Innocence Project is working to overturn injustice, and I’m proud to play a part in their successes.
Join John by donating online today.