The Innocence Network is composed of 46 states, and several countries around the world. As of 2010, 29 people were exonerated worldwide.
The First Innocence Project was founded in 1992 as a consequence of the landmark study by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Benjamin Cardoza School of Law, in which it was revealed that incorrect eyewitness identifications were a factor in over 70% of wrongful convictions! Attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld were the founding members in conjunction with the Cardoza School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City.
- The New York based Innocence Project is funded as follows: 45% individual donations; 30% from Foundations; 15% via their annual benefit dinner 7% by the Law School and various Corporations.
- The Connecticut Innocence Project-Post Conviction Unit (within the State Office of the Public Defender Services) has a mission to “isolate cases of incarcerated persons who have been convicted of crimes in the State of Connecticut for which they are innocent and seek exoneration. The CIP was started by former Public Defender Gerry Smyth with the assistance of Brian Carlow and Karen Goodrow in the summer of 2005. One had an interest in DNA, the other attorney in wrongful convictions (“a marriage made in heaven”). Pro bono office space was given by the Hartford law firm of McCarter and English, beginning in 2006.
- In 2006, CIP took the Case of James Calvin Tillman, wrongfully convicted of beating, robbing and raping a 26-year-old female. After new DNA evidence proved his innocence conclusively (versus the incorrect eyewitness identification of the victim). Mr. Tillman was released from prison in June 2006 after serving 18.5 years! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/James_Tillman.php
- Following James Tillman’s exoneration, in May 2007, the State of Connecticut awarded him $5 million dollars for the wrongful conviction.
- In the summer of 2007, the Connecticut Legislature granted funding to the Connecticut Innocence Project to hire four full-time staff, adding another trial attorney and a former police officer-experienced investigator of capital cases to the pre-existing staff.
- In 2009, Miguel Roman’s case was chosen as one of two wrongfully convicted who were exonerated following a prison term of 20+ years! Roman was charged with murder in the brutal beating and strangulation of his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Circumstantial evidence and interrogation-interview in English versus Spanish caused him to give conflicting accounts. DNA analysis of clothing proved the murderer to be another assailant. Roman was freed on December 19, 2008, and his exoneration became official on April 2, 2009, when the murder charge pending against him was dropped. http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Miguel_Roman.php
- Another successful CIP Case beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009, was that of Kenneth Ireland, falsely accused of sexually assaulting and killing a 30 year old factory worker and mother of four by a severe blow to the head in 1986. Ultimately, two male and one female “witnesses” made false accusations to the police about a confession. Consequently, Mr. Ireland was charged with felony murder, first-degree sexual assault and third-degree burglary. Problems with witnesses dying or never charged, inconsistent fingerprint evidence and lack of admission of evidence by the judge were some of the barriers encountered. In the final analysis, more advanced D\NA evidence ruled out Kenneth Ireland as the murderer. He wrongfully served a prison term of 19 years prior to being released! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Kenneth_Ireland.php
- The Volume of Cases with the Connecticut Innocence Project: As of October 2013, CIP was in the process of reviewing over 100 cases for consideration. Criteria for consideration: 1) Some new form of evidence must exist such as DNA or other evidence; 2) The New found evidence must reasonably assist in proving innocence.
Wrongfully convicted are victims, not criminals
Customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance is available for those victims, family, and friends who are facing one of the most stressful times of their lives. For those who have suffered irreparable damage either as a wrongfully convicted person or as a “traditional crime victim,” there is help. There is hope in the form of a personalized manner, custom tailored to your specific needs.
Can you just imagine what the impact of wrongful conviction had on Mr. Tillman, Mr. Roman and Mr. Ireland? I cannot imagine! Although I personally recall only Mr. Tillman’s case, I do not recall specifics of his victim impact statement. Did he work on it for 18.5 years? Did he have the proper assistance? Was he satisfied with his own words during such an emotional event? We do not know!