May 3rd, 2013
Seven current and former NEIP staff members attended the Innocence Network Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina April 19-21. The Innocence Network is comprised of 63 independent organizations around the world who work to free the wrongfully convicted. Member Projects cover different geographical areas and have different case criteria. Some Projects will only take cases with DNA evidence, while others will accept cases where there is no DNA. NEIP will examine cases with no DNA where scientific testing or other investigative leads could establish a strong likelihood that an individual is factually innocent. Learn more about the Innocence Network here: http://www.innocencenetwork.org/
It was wonderful to meet so many inspiring people and to hear their stories. There were over 500 attendees, including 100 exonerees, at this year’s conference. The Network Conference provides an opportunity to foster community among exonerees and those who work on innocence issues. NEIP case assistant Cassie Macaione reflects on the weekend: “This year’s Innocence Network Conference was a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share the same passion as we do here at NEIP. The skills that I learned over the course of the weekend will truly help me throughout the course of my academic and professional years to come. I am so glad to be part of such an amazing community of people.” The Network Conference is the largest gathering of its kind and allows different Projects to come together and learn from one another. Local radio station WUNC 91.5 was at the conference and spoke with exonerees Audrey Edmonds and Bennie Starks about the struggles they have faced to clear their names. Joining them were Innocence Netowork President Keith Findley and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin. Listen to the piece here.
NEIP was also excited to honor Norwood Police Chief Bill Brooks, this year’s winner of the Innocence Network’s Champion of Justice Award. The award is given to public servants who go above and beyond in their efforts to free the wrongly convicted or reform the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. Chief Brooks has been a police academy instructor for over 25 years and a presenter on eyewitness identification for five years. He has partnered with many members of the Innocence Network and made a tremendous impact on eyewitness identification and other innocence-related reforms. He has traveled the country speaking to a range of criminal justice stakeholders and has trained thousands of members of law enforcement personnel on scientifically supported best practices related to eyewitness identification. NEIP is partnering with Bill Brooks and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police to collect and analyze eyewitness identification procedures from police departments across the state. In conjunction with a SJC Study Group on Eyewitness Identification, the project aims to understand the prevalence of reform based policies containing best practices for eyewitness identification in the state of Massachusetts and explore ways to expand their use. This work will be used to help influence a new model policy regarding eyewitness identification that will be issued later in 2013.