Shortly after his release, Louisiana DNA exoneree Henry James sent an email message to Innocence Project supporters. He wrote: “Without you and without this organization I’d still be in prison for a crime I did not commit.”
Now that James is out, he’s helping the Innocence Project exonerate more innocent prisoners by assisting with our fundraising efforts. James’ email message generated over $4,000 in donations. “It feels great to be free and I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he wrote. “But I know there are others still waiting for help and for a chance to prove their innocence.”
|“I know there are others still waiting for help and for a chance to prove their innocence.”|
|– Exoneree Henry James|
Approaching our 20th anniversary, the Innocence Project celebrates extraordinary growth and increased leverage in the criminal justice system. In 1992, the Innocence Project was founded by defense attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld as a fledgling legal clinic housed at the Cardozo School of Law. Though still closely affiliated with Cardozo, we are now an independent non-profit organization with a staff that has doubled in the last five years alone to over 50 full-time employees.
Such rapid expansion would not have been possible without a strong community of supporters who share our vision of a more fair, more accurate criminal justice system. The coming five years bring bold plans for further growth and a promise to make the most of our unique position as a force for change. For those still hoping for change, still fighting for justice, this is our moment.
I discovered the Innocence Project through a work I was developing titled The Innocents. I had just received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to explore how photography is used in the criminal justice system, and I was looking to get in contact with individuals who had been wrongfully convicted as a result of misidentification. My project centered on the process by which a victim or eyewitness identifies a suspected perpetrator through law enforcement’s use of photographs and lineups. These identifications rely on the assumption of precise visual memory. But eyewitness memory can change or be altered through exposure to visual material. Photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction is one of its most compelling qualities, but this ambiguity, when misused can have severe, even lethal consequences. The Innocence Project has been instrumental in exposing vulnerabilities and cracks in the criminal justice system. Its work reveals the importance of continual questioning and the dangers of an absolute reliance on systems and authority.