Donate and Double Your Impact
A generous group of Innocence Project supporters is matching donations this month dollar-for-dollar and recently increased the match amount to $21,000.
Please donate $25, $50 or $100 today to help free the innocent across the United States.
Still Fighting for a Criminal Justice Commission
Sadly, an amendment to create a National Criminal Justice Commission fell three votes short of passage by the U.S. Senate last week receiving 57 of the needed 60 votes.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the bill’s sponsor, said he would continue pressing to create the commission, which would review and evaluate the American criminal justice system and suggest reforms.
Thousands of Innocence Project supporters have taken action to support the commission, and we’ll likely call on you again for support — stay tuned.
New York exoneree Dewey Bozella, who took up boxing while incarcerated at Sing Sing Prison for a murder he didn’t commit, won his first and last professional boxing match this month defeating Larry Hopkins at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Watch a video of the fight and an interview with Bozella above, and read more about his case here.
Seeking Freedom in Chicago
A Chicago judge held a three-hour hearing Oct. 10 in the case of the four men convicted of killing a woman in the city’s Englewood neighborhood in 1994. The four, along with five other men convicted of a similar crime in Dixmoor, IL., are seeking to have their convictions overturned based on DNA evidence of their innocence.
Read more and sign a petition calling for the men’s exoneration.
Above: Innocence Project clients Michael Saunders (left) and Jonathan Barr (right).
In the first week of October, five Innocence Network clients had their convictions thrown out based on evidence of innocence. Read more about cases in California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas and Illinois.
We applaud our colleagues at these other projects for their continued amazing work and join the whole Innocence Network in welcoming their clients home.
What You’re Saying
A roundup of some of the great conversations happening on social networks this month.
@FlyMikeMarshall, via Twitter: “Everyone follow the @innocenceblog — too many innocent Brothers and sisters in prison, lend a hand 2 them b4 we have another #TROYDAVIS case!”
Michelle, via Facebook: “In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “I refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” Instead I believe that there are ways of ensuring that we are all afforded the rights that so many died for, with minimal collateral damage. We can do better.
Jan, via Facebook: “My cousin has been a warden in a prison for over 20 years. Even he tells me to keep pushing — gotta keep them honest. Why can’t everyone in “criminal JUSTICE” feel that way?”
After 30 years, Henry James Finds Freedom
Henry James was 20 years old — with two daughters under 3 — when he was arrested in 1981 for a crime he didn’t commit. He was convicted based on faulty eyewitness and forensic evidence and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Last Friday, when James finally walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, he was 50 years old and had lost three decades — but he was finally vindicated. He was the 275th person exonerated nationwide through DNA evidence and the 12th in Louisiana. He is pictured above with his family members and Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin (right).
DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project and partner organizations proved James’ innocence of the 1981 rape for which he had been convicted. It took a stroke of luck for James’ exoneration to become a reality, however. For years, Louisiana officials had reported that evidence in James’ case was missing. Then, in 2010, a lab worker searching for evidence in another case came across James’ evidence and happened to remember the code number on the evidence tag. He reported the discovery and tests on this evidence eventually cleared James.
“It was a feeling of a miracle,” James told reporters after his release. “I was shocked. I finally found justice after 30 years.”
Send James a note here to welcome him home, and read more about his case in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Execution Date Set in Texas, but Still no DNA Tests
Hank Skinner is scheduled to be executed November 9 in Texas despite his claims of innocence and his pending request for DNA tests.
Thousands of supporters around the world are calling on Gray County District Attorney Lynn Switzer to agree to allow the DNA tests that could prove Skinner innocent — will you join them? Use our easy online tool to send Switzer an email right now.
Skinner was sentenced to death in 1995 for allegedly killing his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons in their Pampa home. Skinner says he didn’t commit the crime and has sought DNA testing on probative evidence from the crime scene for over a decade. Among the evidence Skinner is seeking to test are knives from the crime scene, hairs from the victim’s hand and a windbreaker possibly worn by the perpetrator.
Learn more about his case here and take action today.
A Call for Prosecutorial Accountability
Yesterday in Washington, D.C., legal leaders joined Louisiana exoneree John Thompson in announcing the launch of a national tour to seek policy reforms addressing prosecutorial misconduct.
The tour is a partnership between the Innocence Project, Veritas Initiative, Innocence Project New Orleans and Voices of Innocence and will include events in Arizona, California, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
John Thompson, who served 18 years in Louisiana prisons — including 14 years on death row — for two crimes he didn’t commit, won a civil settlement based on prosecutorial misconduct. He was stripped of the settlement earlier this year, however, in a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Join the campaign by visiting the website at prosecutorialoversight.org and on Facebook and Twitter.
After TX Exoneration, Seeking Answers
Innocence Project client Michael Morton was freed October 4 in Texas after serving 25 years in prison for a murder DNA proves he didn’t commit. As Morton begins building a new life after his release, attorneys and officials have begun the process of investigating allegations of prosecutorial misconduct involved in his original conviction.
Attorneys in the case are planning to question the prosecutors involved in Morton’s original conviction and on Wednesday a judge denied one prosecutor’s request to block questioning.
Morton was convicted of murdering his wife in 1986 and was cleared after new DNA test results implicated an unnamed man in the case who was also connected to a similar crime in a neighboring county. Documents uncovered after Morton’s conviction reveal that prosecutors withheld significant evidence of his innocence from defense attorneys at trial.
Read more about Morton’s case and see photos and videos from his release.
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
My wife and I support the Innocence Project for several reasons, but one of those reasons is intensely personal: I spent more than six years in a Russian Gulag near Siberia — from 1985 to 1991 — convicted of crimes I did not commit.
As the Soviet Union began to crumble, I was freed, and in 1993, I came to the United States as a political refugee. After suffering the nightmare of wrongful incarceration, I am committed to helping the many others here in America, enduring a similar fate.
I was a nuclear physicist, living and working under Communism for as long as I could tolerate. However, I desperately wanted to live in free society. Finally in 1985, I attempted to escape from my country by sailing on a raft in the Black Sea toward Turkey. I was spotted by a fishing boat, apprehended and convicted of treason, along with other fabricated crimes. My sentence was 15 years hard labor in prison, followed by five years of internal exile. I served nearly seven years, enduring torture and deplorable conditions, before I was released. My experience gives me empathy for the countless people convicted in the United States of crimes they didn’t commit. I know all too well that once you are viewed as guilty by the state, you are powerless and vulnerable.
My wife, Fran Carfaro, and I volunteer our time with several Christian prison ministries. Through the prisoners we’ve encountered, we have heard of many forms of injustice. We felt “convicted” to become monthly supporters of the Innocence Project because we believe not only in the organization’s work to free innocent people but also in seeking reforms to eyewitness procedures, forensics and legal accountability. It is particularly infuriating to see cases where prisoners aren’t able to access the DNA technology that could definitively prove innocence. With low-cost DNA testing available today, we believe mandatory DNA lifeprints should be recorded, along with the person’s fingerprints. There’s no justification not to reopen old cases if there’s any shadow of doubt about guilt.
I am a survivor of wrongful conviction and know there are many more people like me who are behind bars today. Please join me in working to free the innocent and end the horror of wrongful conviction, by setting up a monthly donation to the Innocence Project today..