New DNA test results may finally lead to justice in Florida case
Rebuilding a life after exoneration
FBI admits to four decades of faulty bullet analysis
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
Below are highlights of the Innocence Project's work around the country this month.
To see what's happening in your state, view our interactive reform map.
Today, a judge overturned the conviction of Lynn DeJac, a Buffalo woman who has served 13 years in prison for the murder of her daughter, a crime she has always said she didn't commit. DNA tests have indicated another person in the crime, and the Innocence Project has worked with DeJac's lawyers on her appeals.
She is returning to court this afternoon for a bail hearing. Check the Innocence Blog for updates.
Death row inmate Thomas Arthur is set to be executed Dec. 6 for a murder he has always said he didn't commit. The Innocence Project has asked Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to stay the execution until DNA testing can performed. To date, Riley has refused.
Law enforcement and legal professionals from around Kentucky recently came together in Louisville for a conference on criminal justice reforms and innocence issues.
Innocence Project Policy Analyst Rebecca Brown wrote on the Innocence Blog that other states would be well-served to follow Kentucky's approach to bringing a diverse groups of experts together to spark critical reforms.
Download our new Winter 2007 print newsletter, featuring articles on new DNA testing technology, exonerees who were friends while incarcerated, eyewitness identification reforms and the retrial of former Mississippi death row inmate Kennedy Brewer.
The Innocence Project relies on the support of thousands of individuals around the world to exonerate the innocent and prevent wrongful convictions.
Please visit our website today to donate online or by mail.
Use our easy online form to invite your friends, family and colleagues to sign up
for our e-mail updates.
We welcome your feedback Please contact us at the address below. Cases for review must be submitted via postal mail.
The Innocence Project
Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University
100 Fifth Ave., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011
Chad Heins (above) has been imprisoned for 13 years in Florida for the murder of his sister-in-law, a crime he has always said he didn’t commit. His conviction was thrown out last December based on DNA testing secured by the Innocence Project, but prosecutors said they would retry him for the crime.
In recent days, new DNA test results on additional pieces of evidence further confirmed that someone else committed the murder – and that Heins is innocent. DNA results from several pieces of evidence (including semen at the crime scene and material under the victim’s fingernails) match one unknown male, and none of the evidence implicates Heins.
Heins' retrial was originally set for next week, but will be delayed until a judge can consider the new DNA tests. Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said last week that he expects prosecutors to give the case serious consideration before moving forward with a new trial. Prosecutors said last week they were reviewing the new evidence.
Chris Ochoa (above) spent 11 years in Texas prison for a brutal murder he didn’t commit after he falsely confessed and pled guilty. After his release, he went to law school and now practices as a defense attorney in Madison, Wisconsin. Click here to watch a video on our YouTube page with Ochoa describing his wrongful conviction and life after exoneration.
Not all exonerees have been as fortunate as Ochoa. An extensive study of the exonerated published this week by the New York Times shows that only half of the 115 exonerees interviewed has held a job for more than a year. Many have not been compensated for their wrongful conviction.
The Times story focuses on Innocence Project client Jeffrey Deskovic, who was arrested at age 16 and served 15 years before DNA freed him last year. He has had a difficult year on the outside and said he sometimes still feels like he is in prison. Watch the Times audio slideshow with Deskovic here.
Recently released exonerees need your help. They walk into a changed world, and family has often disappeared. The Innocence Project helps our clients with needs like food, clothing and shelter after their release through direct social services and our Exoneree Fund. Click here to make a holiday donation to the fund online. Every dollar helps rebuild stolen lives.
A joint investigation published this month by the Washington Post and CBS News’ “60 Minutes” revealed that FBI lab analysts have given false and misleading testimony regarding ballistic evidence in thousands of criminal trials over the last four decades. Although the concerns were first raised in 2005, the FBI did not review the hundreds of cases in which faulty forensics could have caused wrongful convictions.
With the release of the investigative report, the FBI has said it will review cases in which bullet lead testimony led to convictions. FBI Assistant Director John Miller said the work of the Innocence Project was vital to addressing this issue. “The digging into individual cases done by the Innocence Project, The Washington Post, and CBS News brought some serious concerns to our attention. The FBI is committed to addressing those concerns. It’s the right thing to do,” Miller said.
The Innocence Network, a group of nearly 40 organizations (including the Innocence Project) devoted to overturning wrongful convictions, announced that it would create a task force with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist and monitor the FBI’s case review and serve as a resource for defense attorneys and defendants who may have been wrongfully convicted based on this unreliable science. Read the Innocence Network’s press release here.
In 2002, I began working at the Innocence Project clinic as part of my studies at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. At our first official Innocence Project meeting, I met Eddie Joe Lloyd – an Innocence Project client who only days before had been freed from a Michigan prison after serving 17 years for a crime he did not commit. Eddie, who passed away in 2004, persevered through an unfathomable ordeal and emerged with his spirit and sense of humor in tact. Hearing him speak that day was a true inspiration. Since then, I have made an effort to meet as often as I can with exonerees. It always energizes me and motivates me to remain involved.
After working in the clinic for two years as a Cardozo student, I went to work as a civil litigator. I have been fortunate to work at a law firm that encourages my continuing pro bono work with the Innocence Project. In 2005 and 2006, I worked with the Project on death penalty cases in the Supreme Court and United States Court of Appeals. And I currently represent Robert Breest, a New Hampshire inmate who is seeking in federal court DNA testing that could prove that he is innocent of the 1971 murder for which he was convicted.
It has been intensely gratifying to remain connected to the Innocence Project and involved with its important work. In fact, I have often said that my work with the Project will likely be the most important work I will do in my life.
My wife, Bree Schonbrun, also attended Cardozo and worked in the Innocence Project clinic. She is now an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, and I know that she brings the lessons that she learned at the Project with her to work each day. Fundamentally, the work of the Project is not about criminal defense or criminal prosecution. It is about truth. As Eddie Joe Lloyd was fond of saying, “DNA is God’s signature. God’s signature is never a forgery, and His checks never bounce.” That is why we give our money and our time to the Innocence Project. And that is why we will continue to give.