Sunday, June 07, 2009

In Praise of The Innocence Project

Our abortion conversation meandered toward the end of the comment thread, and I had reason to bring up The Innocence Project.

These marvelous attorneys came together in 1992 to challenge the wrongful convictions of many people in prison in the U.S. They have made particularly good use of DNA evidence to free the incarcerated, even from death row. They have saved the lives of many, and redeemed others -- and in many cases, brought the real criminals to justice.

The Innocence Project has highlighted many of the failings in our criminal justice system, including evidence tampering, prosecutorial and police misconduct, forced confessions, and the unreliability of eye-witness testimony. It also advocates that states to provide financial compensation for those freed from prison after their convictions have been overturned.

More than 200 wrongfully-convicted people have been freed through its efforts.

I can think of no other philanthropic organization that does work as holy as The Innocence Project.


Divers and Sundry said...

Now if we could just get the death penalty abolished so that folks wrongly convicted of those crimes could be alive to be freed.

bob said...

While even one execution of the wrongly convicted is too many modern forencic techniques seem to be taking care of this situation.

Looking for a list of wrongful executions the site I found listed 20 such executions the latest being 1984 most of the rest from the first half of the 20th century. This would indicate to me that science would permit us to be careful enough to continue the death penalty.

truevyne said...

Right on!

Jeff the Baptist said...

Bob is right. Some people like to say that the success of these projects is proof that we should, say, abolish the death penalty. Moral debate about that aside, they don't show that at all. What they show us is that most of the wrongful convictions of the past would never even get to trial today.

We are far more capable now of accurately discerning criminal guilt and innocence than ever before. I find it difficult to use that as an argument against specific types of sentencing.

Kenny said...

"I can think of no other philanthropic organization that does work as holy as The Innocence Project."

This is indeed a great project. An organization doing similar (and I my view at least equally important) work is International Justice Missions that works through legal channels abroad to fight various forms of persecution against women and minorities.

It's very sad to think that even here in the US a great many people are wrongly incarcerated, but there are a lot of places in the world worse than American prisons.

John said...

Far more capable of, yes. But I read enough of Radley Balko's work to know that prosecutorial/police fraud is all too common.

Think about what would have happened to those Duke lacrosse students if they couldn't have afforded attorneys.

Chris said...

At my first church I had the opportunity to be the first chaplain at a state correctional institution. (I worked there for about a year before moving to a new appointment.)

While there I met Tommy, who had served 20 years of a life sentence. Wonderful guy, he was the worship leader for church. Well respected, he never talked about being innocent. In fact, he could have been paroled but would have had to admit he did what he was convicted of.

One day when he came to me and asked me to pray for him as he was getting some DNA testing done that could prove his innocence.

I had to move before everything was sorted out, but I'll never forget the day, standing in the Pittsburgh Airport that my wife called me and said, "Tommy is on tv. He's free, he's free".

Thank God for groups like the Innocence Project (and it was that group that enabled Tommy's release)