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What is the Innocence Project? How did it get started?

Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. It became an independent nonprofit organization (still closely affiliated with Cardozo) in 2004. 

To date, more than 337 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 20 who were at one time sentenced to death. The Innocence Project was involved in 177 of the DNA exonerations. Others were helped by Innocence Network organizations, private attorneys and by pro se defendants in a few instances.

The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. The Innocence Project’s mission is to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

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