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
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.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Criminal justice advocates are applauding passage of legislation allowing experts on eyewitness identification to testify in some Louisiana criminal cases.
The bill’s supporters include the Innocence Project New Orleans. The organization said in a news release Wednesday that the legislation was needed because eyewitness mistakes are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. Proponents said testimony from experts on memory and eyewitness reliability could prevent such convictions.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman said in an email.
The bill won final passage in the House on Monday by a vote of 103-0. The Senate had approved it earlier by a vote of 37-0.
The bill states that experts on memory and eyewitness identification can testify in criminal trials when there is no physical or scientific evidence that corroborates an eyewitness’s identification of a defendant.
Among those praising the legislation was Wilbert Jones. He was exonerated last year after 46 years of imprisonment for a rape conviction based on identification from a single eyewitness. Innocence Project New Orleans, or IPNO, which took up Jones’ case in 2001, said the victim had told police she was not 100 percent certain when she picked Jones from a lineup months after the crime. Read more.
A federal judge in Raleigh vacated the murder conviction and ordered the release on May 23 of Wrongful Convictions Clinic client Charles Ray Finch, who served 43 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Finch, 81, was released from Greene Correctional Institution later that day.
John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law James Coleman, Jr., the clinic’s co-director, served as Finch’s lead counsel at the hearing. Charles S. Rhyne Clinical Professor of Law Theresa Newman ’88, the clinic co-director, and Supervising Attorney Jamie Lau ’09 also were in the courtroom; both represented Finch during state court proceedings. Duke Law graduates who had worked on the case through the Wrongful Convictions Clinic attended as well.
Finch’s release was the culmination of a 15-year legal battle for Coleman, who took up his case before the clinic was established in 2007. “Ray was unwavering in maintaining his innocence and today proves that he was, and he’s been vindicated,” Coleman told reporters outside the courthouse after the ruling. Read more.
Today, two men who were wrongfully convicted of murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison were fully exonerated and formally declared “actually innocent” by Judge Raquel Jones, who granted a motion by Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to dismiss all charges against both men. The decision was based on evidence that Stanley Mozee and Dennis Lee Allen were factually innocent based on new DNA testing which excluded them from key evidence at the crime scene, as well as findings that their joint convictions were rooted in unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, a false confession and substantial prosecutorial misconduct. Mozee and Allen had maintained their innocence for two decades.
Mozee and Allen were wrongfully convicted of murdering Rev. Jesse Borns, Jr., a store owner and lay minister, who was found stabbed to death in his place of business in April 1999. There was no physical evidence linking Mozee or Allen to the crime scene, yet they were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
Both men had been incarcerated for 15 years for Borns’ murder until a Dallas County district court released them in 2014 based on new information uncovered through a joint re-investigation conducted by the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The re-investigation continued for four years, and ultimately turned up substantial additional evidence proving the two men’s innocence. Much of that evidence was in the trial prosecutor’s own files, but was hidden from the defense until the district attorney’s office adopted an “open file” policy years after Mozee and Allen’s trials. Read more.
University of Baltimore IP Clinic Client Kenneth McPherson and his Brother, Mid-Atlantic IP Client Eric Simmons, Freed
After serving 25 years in prison following wrongful convictions for conspiracy to commit murder, brothers Kenneth “J.R.” McPherson, 45, and Eric Simmons, 48, were fully exonerated on May 3 and went home to their families. The exonerations were sought by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) following investigations by the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic (UBIPC), which handled Mr. Simmons’ case, and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), which represented Mr. McPherson.
Those recent investigations determined that two of the State’s witnesses in the 1995 trial had provided unreliable evidence: One witness, whose rent was being paid by police, said that she saw the shooting from a third-floor window 150 feet away — a location recently determined to have made such an observation impossible — and a 13-year-old boy who had been aggressively interrogated and threatened with homicide charges until he named Mr. McPherson and Mr. Simmons. That juvenile later recanted his statement, but the men were convicted anyway. Read more.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday cleared an Indiana man of sexual assault convictions in Fairfax County from more than four decades ago.
The case may be the last exoneration stemming from a massive post-conviction DNA testing project in Virginia that was begun in 2005 and is about to wrap up. The effort now has cleared 13 innocent people of serious crimes.
The unanimous court issued a writ of actual innocence for Winston L. Scott, 62, vacating his convictions. He was 19 when a Reston woman was attacked on July 24, 1975. He was sentenced to 14 years on convictions of rape, sodomy and statutory burglary and served about five years before he was paroled.
“Upon reviewing the totality of the evidence, including records from the original case, the evidence presented at the original trial, the newly-discovered biological evidence, and the proffers made by the petitioner and the Commonwealth, the Court finds that Scott has proved, by clear and convincing evidence … that no rational trier of fact would have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” wrote Justice Bernard Goodwyn.
Scott was convicted largely on the strength of the victim’s identification of him in a photo spread and then again in court at his 1976 trial.
However, in 2010, DNA testing of sperm found on the victim’s jeans and from her vagina failed to identify Scott’s genetic profile or that of the victim’s only sex partner at the time. Scott was not excluded until 2017, after he was located out of state and asked if he wanted to submit a sample for testing.
“For 43 years, Winston Scott has been branded a rapist for a crime he didn’t commit,” said Frances Walters, one of Scott’s lawyers with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. “Today’s decision erases that burden and will allow him to live the rest of his life without that stain.” Read more.
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.