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.
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68 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
Kerry Robinson, 44, of Moultrie, Georgia, was exonerated and released today from Coffee Correctional Facility, into the arms of family, friends and a team of legal supporters, after being wrongly convicted of rape almost 18 years ago. Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Shealy joined in Robinson’s motion to vacate his sentence. The move followed litigation initiated by Atlanta-based Georgia Innocence Project and co-counsel Rodney Zell based upon new, exonerating DNA results obtained by DNA scientist Dr. Greg Hampikian.
At Robinson’s 2002 rape trial, the jury heard testimony from a state crime lab analyst that suggested that Robinson’s DNA was likely included in a DNA mixture from the sexual assault kit performed on the victim. But new DNA analysis proves just the opposite: the same evidence the GBI said was inclusionary at trial is now proven to be exclusionary.
“We are thrilled to see this unjust conviction finally corrected,” said Georgia Innocence Project Executive Director Clare Gilbert. “The factors that led to Kerry Robinson’s conviction – flawed forensics and false testimony from an incentivized cooperator – are present in so many wrongful conviction cases. Our fight continues on behalf of the many innocent men and women who remain imprisoned in Georgia.”
“Modern DNA technology has further confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: Kerry Robinson is an innocent man,” said Rodney Zell, co-counsel in Robinson’s case. “I am so grateful that new technology is finally able to meet the incredibly high thresholds for righting wrongful convictions in Georgia. It’s been a long fight and we wish Kerry’s mother were here to see this day. We are overjoyed to see Kerry coming home after all these years.”
“Fifteen minutes of flawed DNA forensic testimony took almost 18 years to correct in this case. My hope is that labs and lawyers will take notice, and re-examine these complex DNA mixture cases that can mistakenly imprison the innocent,” said DNA scientist Dr. Greg Hampikian of Boise State University, who obtained the new DNA results. “I am so relieved that Kerry is finally coming home.”
Demetrius Johnson smiled broadly as he walked out of the county’s main criminal courthouse Friday and headed home for a celebratory bubble bath.
It was a pivotal day for Johnson. The 44-year-old, who went to prison for 12 years as a teenager for murder, became the 20th person to be exonerated based on allegations he was framed by retired Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.
Earlier this year, it came to light that an eyewitness account implicating another person in the fatal 1991 Wicker Park shooting had been concealed from prosecutors and defense attorneys.
A Cook County judge vacated Johnson’s conviction in November, leaving it up to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to retry the case — although Johnson had served his sentence and couldn’t be sent back to prison — or drop the case altogether.
A prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office Friday informed Judge Dennis J. Porter that the state’s attorney’s office had decided to drop all charges.
“It’s an out-of-body experience,” Johnson said after the hearing. “I felt like I had a gorilla on my back.”
Worcester, MA [December 10, 2019] – The Worcester County District Attorney dropped its case against Gary Cifizzari of Taunton, Mass., who was wrongfully convicted of a 1979 murder and spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
“Exonerations are always bittersweet,” said Radha Natarajan, co-counsel for Cifizzari and Executive Director of the New England Innocence Project. “During 35 years of wrongful imprisonment, Gary Cifizzari endured so much and lost so much. But today, he finally receives the justice he deserves and can celebrate the freedom he has again. Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices.”
“We are thrilled that Mr Cifizzari was rightly exonerated today. No one should spend decades behind bars for a crime they did not commit,” said Ropes & Gray litigation and enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer. “We commend the Worcester District Attorney for assenting to our motion for a new trial and concluding that the charges against Mr. Cifizzari should be dropped in the interest of justice.”
On May 31, 2019, the New England Innocence Project and a pro bono Ropes & Gray litigation team filed a motion for a new trial in Worcester Superior Court on behalf of Mr. Cifizzari. Along with his brother, Mr. Cifizzari was wrongfully convicted of the 1979 murder of his great aunt, 75-year-old Concetta Schiappa. The May 31 motion exposed newly discovered and tested DNA evidence developed from the semen and saliva on the victim’s nightgown that exonerated Mr. Cifizzari and identified Michael Giroux as the true perpetrator of the crime through a CODIS DNA match. Mr. Giroux, now deceased, was originally a suspect in the case and questioned by police, but was never charged and later went on to commit other crimes.
Statement to be attributed to Steve Wax, Legal Director, Oregon Innocence Project.
“We are delighted that Nick McGuffin is being freed now that his conviction for manslaughter
has been overturned and that there will be no appeal from the State or retrial. Staff and
volunteers of the Oregon Innocence Project worked for five years on Nick’s case, including
Janis Puracal prior to her creating the Forensic Justice Project. Nick is also represented by
Ryan O’Connor of O’Connor Weber. Nick’s case was one of the first brought to us when we
opened our doors in 2014. In particular, our researcher John Comery has shown outstanding
commitment to helping Nick and has worked on the case since we took it on. Nick’s release
follows thousands of hours of labor by our staff and volunteers. As in so many innocence cases,
it is only with dedication and tremendous effort by many people that justice will eventually be
done. We wish Nick every future happiness as he is reunited with his family and friends.”
(New York – December 30, 2019) Today, the Hon. Joseph Zayas of Queens County Supreme Court granted a motion to vacate the 1990 conviction of Innocence Project client Felipe Rodriguez and entered an order dismissing all charges against him. Rodriguez served 27 years in prison before today’s exoneration.
Rodriguez is represented by the Innocence Project and the Law Offices of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma. The Innocence Project first took on Rodriguez’s case in 2007, and has worked to clear him of his wrongful conviction for nearly 13 years.
Notably, today’s exoneration was the result of a reinvestigation into Rodriguez’s claim of innocence and the evidence that led to his conviction by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office (QCDA), which it began at the Innocence Project’s request three years ago. That investigation revealed newly discovered exculpatory evidence in the police file that was unlawfully withheld from Rodriguez’ defense attorney. This evidence directly contradicts key portions of the state’s already weak case against him presented at the 1990 trial.
Rodriguez was granted a commutation of sentence by Governor Andrew Cuomo exactly three years ago today, on December 30, 2016. He was released from prison on January 2, 2017. Since his release, Rodriguez has gotten married and worked steadily at the Row Hotel as a member of the Hotel Trades Council Union (HTC). HTC leadership, moved by Rodriguez’s story and his record of achievements in prison, gave him the opportunity to rebuild his life with a living wage after release despite the fact that he still had a murder conviction on his record until today.
Royal Clark, Jr. was exonerated after spending 17 years, four months and 14 days in prison for an armed robbery that evidence has now proven what he’s said all along – that he is innocent.
Royal was convicted of a 2001 armed robbery of a Burger King restaurant in Terrytown, Louisiana. Royal’s exoneration was based on new evidence of his innocence –fingerprints left at the crime scene were recently linked to another man, Jessie Perry.
Royal’s case, the second exoneration in Louisiana in three months from fingerprint evidence, underscores the importance of prisoners having access to evidence that could prove their innocence, even in cases that don’t involve DNA.
Royal was convicted on his 26th birthday on June 26, 2003. He walked out of the jail in June 2019 and into the arms of his loving family, including his 17-year-old son, Royal Clark, III.
Currently, there is no clear legal right for prisoners to access non-DNA forensic databases so that truth can prevail. IPNO will continue to advocate for the creation and recognition of this important legal right before the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Louisiana Legislature.
Check out the Innocence Network’s Wrongful Conviction Day website. Wrongful Conviction Day is an international day to raise awareness of the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction and to recognize the tremendous personal, social, and emotional costs of wrongful conviction for innocent people and their families. Check out tweets and posts from last year’s Wrongful Conviction Day.