Michigan man is free after 26 years in prison
Colorado: Saving evidence to save lives
Working together: crime victims and exonerees
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
A step toward DNA testing access
Lawmakers are considering a bill that would make South Carolina the 44th state in the U.S. to provide access to DNA testing for inmates who claim innocence. The State, which is South Carolina’s largest and most influential newspaper, is urging legislators to support the bill.
Sign the Innocence Project’s petition for national DNA access here..
Helping those after me
Compensation, but at what cost?
Key leaders discuss wrongful convictions
At a landmark Summit on Wrongful Convictions in Austin earlier this month, lawmakers, judges, lawyers, exonerees and members of the public discussed the causes of wrongful convictions and possible reforms to prevent injustice. A chorus of support for a state innocence commission has followed the meeting.
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|Michigan man is free after 26 years in prison
Today in Detroit, Innocence Project client Walter Swift is free for the first time in more than a quarter century. Since the Innocence Project took Swift’s case 10 years ago, lawyers, law students and staff have uncovered substantial evidence that he did not commit the rape for which he was convicted in 1982.
DNA testing could not be conducted to prove Swift’s innocence because the evidence had been lost or destroyed, but other evidence of Swift’s innocence has been mounting for years. This morning, a Michigan judge approved a joint request from the Innocence Project and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to vacate Swift’s conviction and drop all charges against him. His 26-year nightmare began when he was identified in a seriously flawed photo lineup. The victim of a 1982 Detroit rape picked eight men from hundreds of photos, saying they looked like the attacker. Swift’s photo was the eighth one she chose, and he was the only one chosen who was brought into the station for a live lineup. The victim was told that the lineup would include the eighth man she picked, and she identified Swift as the perpetrator.
The officer conducting the lineup knew that the identification was “not strong,” but her advocacy for further investigation got her transferred off the case.
Read more about Swift’s release on our website.
Swift’s exoneration and others have helped build momentum in Michigan for policy reforms that would prevent future wrongful convictions. An eyewitness identification reform bill pending before state lawmakers would require Michigan law enforcement agencies to follow lineup procedures proven to reduce misidentifications. If these procedures had been followed after Swift’s arrest in 1982, he may not have lost 26 years of his life. Read more about Michigan’s proposed eyewitness reform bill.
Colorado: Saving evidence to save lives
All 216 people exonerated by DNA evidence in the U.S. have at least one thing in common — biological evidence in their cases was preserved for DNA testing. In countless other cases, innocent people remain behind bars because evidence has been lost or destroyed and can never be tested.
Colorado took a major step toward fair justice last week when Gov. Bill Ritter signed a new law requiring that evidence in violent crimes be preserved as long as the defendant is alive, making his state the 23rd in the country that requires crime scene evidence to be preserved. Innocence Project Policy Analyst Rebecca Brown, who testified about the bill in the State Legislature, praised Colorado lawmakers on the new law:
"This law is a major step forward for justice in Colorado," Brown said. "This evidence can provide clear answers to lingering questions about innocence or guilt."
Does your state have an evidence preservation law? Find out here..
Working together: Crime victims and exonerees cooperate on quest for justice
Watch a video of Dennis and Peggy’s dance, and of John Grisham, who wrote “The Innocent Man” about Dennis’ case, accepting a Freedom & Justice Award on May 7.
The Innocence Project works closely with crime victims, their families, and victims’ rights organizations, because freeing innocent people and addressing the causes of wrongful conviction help seek true justice for everyone. When the wrong person goes to prison, the victim is also denied justice. For this reason, crime victims and family members are increasingly strong advocates for the Innocence Project’s policy reforms. Also at the May 7 event with Peggy Carter Sanders was her niece, Christy Sheppard, who has become the spokesperson for the family and an advocate for criminal justice reforms in Oklahoma and nationwide.
Read more about Sheppard’s work and the Innocence Project’s partnership with victims’ rights groups here.