Alabama execution set for tomorrow despite lack of DNA testing
Crime victims join criminal justice reform efforts
California on the cusp of critical reforms
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld and law professor Brandon Garrett presented last week to the esteemed National Academy of Sciences committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community.
The two shared lessons from the Innocence Project’s first 200 exonerations, which Garrett evaluated in a nationally acclaimed study slated for the Columbia Law Review’s January issue. Download Prof. Garrett's preliminary report.
Each year, the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif., honors 25 organizations that use technology to improve people’s lives around the world.
The museum announced last week that the Innocence Project is among five nominees for this year’s Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award for using DNA technology to overturn wrongful convictions and reform the criminal justice system.
Read more about the museum and the award.
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Unless Alabama Gov. Bob Riley or courts intervene, Thomas Arthur will be executed tomorrow despite his claims of innocence and the possibility of DNA testing in his case. Less than two months ago, Darrell Grayson was executed after Riley refused to step in and allow DNA testing that could have proven Grayson’s guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project advocated for DNA testing in the courts and through the political system in both cases. But over the last few days, Riley has refused to even learn more about how DNA testing could prove Arthur’s innocence.
“As we told the governor’s senior advisers, 42 states in the country now allow post-conviction DNA testing. In 42 states, Darrell Grayson or Thomas Arthur would have been able to get DNA testing that could resolve their cases and maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Governor Riley, who has refused DNA testing before executions twice in the last two months, has made it clear that he isn’t concerned with getting to the truth in these cases,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld.
In the October issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Ann Meng describes her shock when she learned that the wrong man had spent more than two decades in prison for a rape she suffered in 1981. Six weeks after she was attacked in her Norfolk, Virginia, home, Meng saw Julius Earl Ruffin on an elevator in her office building. She told police she had found the man who raped her. After two mixed-race juries came to deadlocks, Ruffin, who is African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury. Meng told that third jury: “When I look at him, I know it’s him.” But in 2002, DNA testing proved that another man was the actual perpetrator. Today, Meng speaks out about reforming eyewitness identification procedures. “The only thing I can do is give something back by speaking out,” she told O Magazine. “Let’s look at what’s wrong in our criminal justice system and fix it.”
Meng joins a growing number of crime victims and their families – and victims’ organizations – who are working with the Innocence Project to advocate for policy reforms that can prevent wrongful convictions. They are brought together by an intensely personal understanding that crime victims are not served by a system that apprehends innocent people while true perpetrators remain at large. And their voices are having a profound impact.
Read more in a special feature on our website.
Three bills currently awaiting the signature of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would prevent wrongful convictions by reforming the state’s criminal justice system. This is the second year the state’s legislature has passed reform bills that address the major causes of wrongful conviction, but Schwarzenegger vetoed similar bills last year, citing “drafting errors.”
The bills’ authors say the drafting issues have been addressed and they called on the governor to sign the bills immediately. The bills, which stem from the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, would create new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures, recording of interrogations and snitch testimony in courtrooms.
Watch a video of California exoneree Herman Atkins (right), who supports passage of the bills to prevent anyone else suffering the injustice he did.
I've been fascinated by DNA evidence and its power to overturn wrongful convictions for quite some time. Each time I hear through the media that another person has been exonerated based on DNA evidence, I am elated. I've heard about the Innocence Project for a few years, and have seen the group on the news, but I didn't really know how to contribute. I wanted to be a part of a project like this that advocates for the innocent and underprivileged.
When the 200th exoneration happened in April, I went on the Innocence Project's website and found a donation form. My donation was in honor of the 200 exonerees. I can't imagine what they went through, being in prison for many years, knowing they were innocent and waiting for the legal process to work. When you're living life, time moves fast; but when you're waiting, it moves slow.
My mother taught me to give liberally to the causes that I believe in. I truly believe in the Innocence Project and that is why I give.