Freeing the innocent and preventing wrongful convictions worldwide
The Innocence Network is an affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted, working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions, and supporting the exonerated after they are freed.
69 organizations from around the world working to exonerate unjustly convicted men and women, including independent nonprofits as well as organizations affiliated with law schools or other educational institutions, units of public defender offices, and pro bono sections of law firms.
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Recent news articles and media mentions from around the Innocence Network
The Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law has secured a conditional pardon for its client, Messiah Johnson, who the clinic argued was wrongly convicted of armed robbery.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed orders Friday for the release of Johnson and five others in separate cases. In doing so, he noted the sentences were “far outside what should have been adequate to keep Virginia safe.”
Johnson had been sentenced to 132 years in prison.
“Mr. Johnson has served over 20 years for this crime and yet there are serious questions about his guilt – he has always maintained his innocence and there is credible evidence that he was not guilty at all,” the governor’s office said in its afternoon statement. Read more.
Chicago officials have agreed to pay $9.3 million to a man wrongfully convicted of setting a 1984 fire that killed a mother and her five children, a crime he confessed to only after he was allegedly beaten by detectives working under disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
The proposed settlement in the federal lawsuit brought by James Kluppelberg marks the latest in a string of massive payouts by the city involving cases of alleged police misconduct.
It also adds to the ever-mounting costs of the torture scandal involving Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives, which has stained the city’s reputation and so far cost taxpayers at least $115 million in lawsuit settlements, judgments and other compensation to victims. Read more.
Thomas Sierra has become used to waiting.
The 41-year-old Chicago native spent more than half his life in prison, convicted of a murder he has claimed from the beginning he didn’t commit. His attorneys say he was framed by a retired Chicago Police detective who has since kept quiet about his alleged misconduct in multiple cases.
On Tuesday, a couple months after his release, Sierra found himself inside the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, waiting the better part of two hours for a hearing that was scheduled for 10 a.m.
It was getting close to noon.
Sporting a close-cropped hairstyle and black shoes, dark grey pants and a grey shirt, Sierra spent most of that time seated in the front row of the gallery. He was hunched over, either with his hands clenched as if in prayer or rubbing his restless legs, chatting with his brother and waiting for his name to be called inside a sixth-floor courtroom. Read more.
A man who claims he was wrongly convicted of an alleged racially-motivated murder in 1987 was released from prison Tuesday after spending 30 years behind bars.
Nearly 20 family and friends waited to embrace Dean McKee, now 46, as he walked out of the Orient Road Jail after posting bond.
“It’s been a long road and I’m so overwhelmed and some wonderful people kept me strong and kept me focused,” said McKee, who made a brief statement before heading home. “When you open your heart some amazing things happen. I’m grateful and I’m blessed.”
McKee was 16 years old when he and his then-18-year-old brother Scott were arrested and accused of attacking Isaiah Walker, a homeless black man who was found stabbed to death outside the Tampa Museum of Art. Read more.
A Great Falls judge exonerated a man who has spent 15 years behind bars for a murder he said he didn’t commit.
The murder charge against Richard Burkhart, represented by the Montana Innocence Project, was dismissed last week. Burkhart was accused of killing Wiliam D. Ledeau, who was reportedly bludgeoned with a hammer on Nov. 13, 2001, on 12th Street North, between Central and First Avenue North.
The order dismissing the case allows prosecutors to refile the charge against Burkhart in the future if new evidence supports it.
A 12-person jury had found Burkhart, now 38, guilty at trial in 2002. In light of new evidence uncovered in 2015, Judge John Kutzman overturned Burkhart’s original conviction and ordered he receive a second trial.
Attorneys with the Montana Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, filed a motion in December to dismiss the case for violation of Burkhart’s right to a speedy trial. On Dec. 28, district prosecutors filed their own motion to dismiss the case, citing a lack of evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Read more.
As Cory L. Epps was led away 19 years ago after being sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for a murder he swore he did not commit, he told his family: “The Lord’s going to take care of it. Don’t worry about it, you all.”
Epps’ assurances came through Friday morning in an Erie County courtroom packed with his family and friends.
Now 46, Epps, a married father of three now with four grandchildren, was ordered freed in a courtroom packed with relatives, exonerated in the road rage shooting death of Tameka Means of Cheektowaga early on the morning of May 26, 1997.
“The judgment of conviction of Mr. Cory Epps is hereby vacated … in the interest of justice,” said Erie County Court Judge James Barnesi.
Applause broke out and one man yelled: “Thank you, judge.” Read more.