New Jersey Man Released After 19 Years in Prison
Maryland Passes Major Forensic Reforms
Why Oklahoma Needs An Innocence Commission
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
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80 people were exonerated by DNA evidence between 1989 and 1999.
121 have been exonerated since 2000.
11 have been exonerated so far in 2007.
The following 11 people have been exonerated by DNA testing so far in 2007. Click on each for more information from our website.
Gregory Wallis, TX
Larry Fuller, TX
Travis Hayes, LA
Pete Williams, GA
Roy Brown, NY
James Waller, TX
Andrew Gossett, TX
Antonio Beaver, MO
Anthony Capozzi, NY
Jerry Miller, IL
Curtis McCarty, OK
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Innocence Project client Byron Halsey is free this afternoon for the first time in two decades. Halsey, who narrowly escaped the death penalty when he was convicted in 1988 of the brutal 1985 murders of two children, walked out of a courthouse today in New Jersey, surrounded by friends, family and Innocence Project staff, after DNA testing proved his innocence and implicated another person in the crime.
In 1985, Halsey and his girlfriend were raising her two young children, a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. Halsey, who has a sixth-grade education and severe learning disabilities, was interrogated for 30 hours during the 40-hour period after the bodies were discovered. Eventually, he made statements that police considered a “confession” and the investigation into another suspect, Cliff Hall, was dropped. The confession was used against Halsey at trial, and Hall testified against him as well. Although prosecutors sought the death penalty, Halsey was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms, plus 20 years.
DNA testing has now proven that biological material from the crime matches Cliff Hall, who is in New Jersey prison for several other sex crimes. In a statement today, the mother of the two children said she is thankful that DNA testing finally revealed the truth in the case and that justice can be done. Although Halsey’s conviction was vacated this morning, he will not be officially exonerated until the prosecutor decides not to retry him and the charges are formally dropped. We will keep you updated as the case develops. For more on Byron Halsey’s release today, visit our website..
State crime labs across the country are working under significant pressures, including massive backlogs, a lack of trained and qualified staff and inadequate resources and equipment. Maryland legislators recently moved towarding reforming forensic practices by passing a groundbreaking law establishing oversight of the state’s crime labs by an independent board steeped in clinical laboratory practices – the state’s Department of Health and Hygiene. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law in late April.
The Innocence Project recommends that states create independent oversight groups like Maryland's to ensure real reform. Three other states have established forensic oversight panels, but none have the clinical laboratory focus of the new Maryland law, which will now set an example for other states as they work to ensure a more fair and accurate criminal justice system. Read more about Maryland's groundbreaking new law. and read the Innocence Project's position on crime lab oversight.
On Friday, Curtis McCarty was exonerated in Oklahoma after spending 21 years in prison – including more than 16 on death row – for a 1982 murder he didn’t commit. He was convicted twice and sentenced to death three times for the same crime; his convictions and sentences were repeatedly overturned because of serious prosecutorial misconduct and forensic fraud. Now, DNA has proven that another person committed the crime. There are undoubtedly more innocent people in Oklahoma’s prisons and nationwide and reforms are needed to ensure that more innocent people are not convicted. The Innocence Project works with state and local advocates to create Innocence Commissions that can identify the causes of wrongful convictions and develop remedies to prevent them.
For two years in a row, the Oklahoma legislature has failed to pass a bill creating an Innocence Commission. Nine people have been exonerated by DNA evidence in Oklahoma; McCarty is the third of them to be freed from death row. As part of our month-long "200 Exonerated, Too Many Wrongfully Convicted" campaign, the Innocence Project is advocating for the passage of Innocence Commissions nationwide. Click here to learn how to help promote these important reforms in your state.
I recently learned about the Innocence Project's work, after reading John Grisham's book "The Innocent Man," but I have long understood that wrongful convictions happen and that our justice system is deeply flawed. Now that DNA evidence is available, we must use it to be more careful with our system of justice.
As a Conservative rabbi, I am deeply concerned about social justice as I think all people of faith should be. The work of the Innocence Project should resonate with anyone who cares about these issues. It is a matter of the people demanding that their court system do the right thing; I believe that the U.S. is a culture that resists evil. And what is more evil than the conviction and execution of innocent people?
I support the Innocence Project's work because I believe humans should strive for justice. I give because my belief system demands it.