December 21st, 2011
The Innocence Network released its annual report today revealing that 21 people across the country were exonerated by Innocence Network member organizations for crimes they didn’t commit in the past year. Two men served more than 3 decades behind bars before being exonerated. There are 64 member organizations, including NEIP. While each organization in the Network operates independently they coordinate to share information and expertise.
The New England Innocence Project had a major victory this year with the exoneration of James “Jimmy” Hebshie. His conviction was based on fire science that has since been widely discredited. Read his whole story here.
The report, “Innocence Network Exonerations 2011,” provides information about each of this year’s 21 exonerations in 13 states. Misidentification was by far the leading cause of the wrongful convictions that were overturned, but this year also saw false confessions, faulty forensics and police and prosecutorial misconduct as contributing factors.
“These 21 exonerations expose the cracks in our deeply flawed criminal justice system,” said Keith Findley, President of the Innocence Network. “We urge legislators and other political leaders to take notice of these numbers and implement reforms to reduce the risks that such grave injustices will happen in the first place.”
This is the third year that the Innocence Network compiled a report of the year’s exonerations. The 21 people profiled in this year’s report served more than 365 combined years in prison before they were finally freed. Each case represents countless hours and sometimes years of ardent advocacy by attorneys, paralegals, investigators and students that comprise the Innocence Network.
In addition to helping overturn wrongful convictions, Innocence Network organizations increasingly work to bring substantive reform to the criminal justice system. Last year, Network member organizations lobbied statehouse across the country for reforms to improve identification procedures, reduce false confessions, put limits on the use of jailhouse informants, improve access to post-conviction DNA testing and ensure compensation for the years lost in prison unjustly.
Innocence Network members range from successful clinics that have operated for many years at some of the most respected universities to full-fledged nonprofit organizations with a solid staff and base of funding to small clinics at law schools that are still setting up a process to review cases. You can learn more about the Innocence Network or find an organization near you at www.innocencenetwork.org.