The Innocence Project Online - January 2010
News from the innocence movement around the United States
Barry Scheck on the Colbert Report
Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck discussed wrongful convictions and the death penalty with Stephen Colbert this month.
Click here to watch the interview.
Still Searching for Evidence
Innocence Project client Stephen Brooks continues searching for the evidence that could prove his innocence. Brooks has been in New Jersey prisons for 22 years for a crime he has always maintained he didn’t commit.
Although previous evidence searches have been fruitless, the Innocence Project is continuing to seek thorough searches of facilities overseen by police and prosecutors.
Exonerees Settle Lawsuit
Two men who served 26 years in prison for a murder they didn’t commit settled a lawsuit this month with Iowa prosecutors whose alleged misconduct contributed to the wrongful convictions. The U.S. Supreme Court was considering the case to determine the limits of prosecutorial immunity, but dropped it after the settlement was announced.
Ten Great Books of the Decade
"Picking Cotton," the moving story of an exoneration in North Carolina and the friendship between a crime victim and exoneree, was released in paperback this month with a new reading group guide.
The best-selling book was included in the Innocence Project’s list of Ten Great Books from the last decade.
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The Innocence Project
Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva Unversity
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New York, NY 10011
Pennsylvania Man Seeks DNA Testing
As Texas Panel Reconvenes, Arson Case Not on Agenda
After a long hiatus and months of national controversy, the Texas Forensic Science Commission will meet on Friday. However, the questionable arson conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham that has drawn national headlines for months isn’t on the agenda.
The panel was set to hear in October from an arson expert it hired to review the accuracy of evidence used to convict Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three daughters. Before that meeting could take place, however, Texas Gov. Rick Perry suddenly replaced four commission members, including its chairman, and the hearing was postponed.
The Innocence Project formally asked the commission to investigate the Willingham case — and determine whether unreliable arson analysis may have led to countless other convictions — in 2006, and the commission has been investigating the matter for years. This week, the Innocence Project and the former commission chairman told the Associated Press that the agenda for Friday’s meeting is a sign of continued delays in the panel’s important work.
Willingham's case has been in the national spotlight since an investigation by the New Yorker discredited every piece of evidence used against Willingham. Independent reviews in recent years by more than a half-dozen nationally renowned arson experts have found that there was no scientific basis for determining that the fire was anything more than a tragic accident. Learn more about the case here.
Friday’s meeting will be available streaming live on the Innocence Project’s website.
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Fighting to Right a Wrong
"The Wronged Man," a new movie about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Calvin Willis, premiered this month on Lifetime Movie Network, drawing rave reviews from critics and helping raise awareness worldwide about the issue of wrongful convictions. Watch the full movie online here for a limited time.
Willis served more than 21 years in Louisiana prisons for a child rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project proved his innocence and led to his exoneration. For 15 years, a paralegal named Janet "Prissy" Gregory advocated on Willis’ behalf, filing appeals for a new trial and raising money to pay for DNA testing. Gregory is played in the film by Julia Ormond. Willis is played by Mahershalalhashbaz Ali. Pictured above is a scene from the film with Ormond (left), Tonea Stewart (playing Momma Newton, the grandmother who raised Calvin) and Ali.
Learn more about Willis’ case and watch an Innocence Project video of Willis' reunion with long-time friend and fellow exoneree Rickie Johnson.
Airing with the film is a new Public Service Announcement featuring Julia Ormond on wrongful convictions and the work of the Innocence Project. Watch the PSA here.
Did you see the film? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.
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Why I Give: Connie Charles
Nonprofit Education Support Coordinator
San Antonio, Texas
It’s a startling movie, and I immediately knew I wanted to get involved.