May 7, 2009

Help free the innocent

Posted: 05:03 PM ET

NEW YORK – Last night was a big night for the Innocence Project. The once fledgling organization founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992 has used DNA analysis to secure the release of 237 people. In the process they have systematically identified the causes of, and remedies for wrongful conviction. More than that, they have started a movement across the country, with innocence projects cropping up nationwide.

Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld

Last night was a celebration of all they have accomplished, with celebrities like John Grisham and Brook Shields coming out for the cause. Even more meaningful, twelve men and women told their horrific stories of wrongful conviction and bittersweet tales of fighting for, and ultimately winning their freedom.

There were more than 600 people in the room, all supporting the mission. But it’s not enough.

If you do the numbers, there are probably thousands more innocent people in prison; and fighting to win the release of an innocent person is the noblest thing a lawyer can do. If Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld retire tomorrow, they've done more good work than most lawyers do in a lifetime. But the heroism of two men is not enough.

For one thing, fighting wrongful conviction costs money. DNA testing costs between $2,000 and $15,000 per case. And that's just the beginning. We need to spread the truth about wrongful convictions and the fight for exoneration. Most people don’t believe it matters for them. But it does. It could.

You don't have to be a lawyer to make a difference. Visit the Innocence Project online to find out how you can help free the innocent. Click here to view site.

-Jami Floyd, In Session anchor

Filed under: Uncategorized

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Pat   May 7th, 2009 7:50 pm ET

When this particular matter is discussed in a group the overwhelming response is always "they had to be guilty of something". Although that may or may not be true it's pretty darn hard to get past that first response.

I applaud Barry and CO's work and yours for your efforts keeping it in the front burner and hope someday, as we all do, that not one innocent person is wrongly jailed.......but as you know I just as passionately wish that no man or woman gets away with "murder". Woops, too late, that alreayd happened a few times, huh?

Brenda   May 7th, 2009 9:24 pm ET

Sorry, but Scheck and Neufeld lost me during OJ... If they wanted my donation, they should never have defended Simpson as if he were innocent. It's about truth and integrity.

William Phillips   May 8th, 2009 1:04 am ET

Mr. . or the State Trouper you are showing now. Yes he should be found Guilty. And sentenced to the Max. These Gung Ho cops think that they own the world My Daughter was killed by a cop that run a red light and was not charged at all although I tried to have him But you must know of the blue line Which is demonstrated by all the State Troopers at the trial . What is so hard to to see he is guilty he says he did not see the stop sign. Speeding and ignoring all all red lights and speed limits.. There are so many Gung Ho cops Now that they think it is right. but when you kill some one regardless if you are a cop you should be treated as a Private person Not special because he is a cop.. I know that he wont but I pray that some one on the Jury will hold out and it becomes a Mistrail.

William Phillips   May 8th, 2009 1:26 am ET

Why is it so hard to see what this trooper is trying to prove first he says that he stop at the stop sign and and looked both ways. Now he says he did not see the stop line. I do not understand Why you can not see trough this. you keep saying he is not guilty . I watch you every day And I agree with you most of the time. Now on another case Ms Jackson found guilty there was no evidence that proved guilty the judge should have dismissed the case befour sending the jury out. This I think is the failure of the jury system. I think the Judge should be censured or removed for incompency .

Spider   May 8th, 2009 9:09 am ET

These DNA tests are amazing.

Tell me. Can we start a Guilty Project and revisit cases like where a slick defense attorney got an armed robber off because the gun was registered to someone else and there were no finger prints? Run a DNA test on the gun and find the defendants DNA on it. New evidence, new trial. Convict him this time and send him away were he belongs. I guarantee there's a whole lot mor of those types of cases than there are innocent people in prison.

Maybe I should start a Guilty Project website and ask for donations.

After all, who benefits from the Innocence Project? Let's see....there's the few hundred that are released from prison, many of which may be innocent of these particular charges but will return to the streets and commit more crimes. So, us upstanding citizens will suffer.

By the way, 237 cases? There's quite a few people in prison aren't there? Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? Not a huge percentage of the total have been found to be wrongly convicted then. But, just one innocent person in prison is too many, right? Go ahead and feel sorry for these folks. Then, check them out two years from now. See how many of them are back in jail.

The big winners with the Innocence Project are the lawyers involved. Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld have made names for themselves and they will reap the profits.

If these tests are so flawed, that a second test, on a different day, by a different tester, can come up with a completely different conclusion, then maybe we shouldn't be using them to prove innocence, or guilt. The lie detector was considered an amazing advancement, but it's been determined that it's results can't be trusted, so it can't be used in a court of law. Maybe DNA testing should go the way of the lie detector.

Garry L. Solano   May 8th, 2009 11:10 am ET

It is cheaper to perform a DNA test then to keep the wrongfully accused in prison. An example of this is my son, who is currently incarcerated in Medina County Texas, wrongfully accused without any DNA evidence or testing. The adjudication of guilt was based solely upon a written statement by the "victim" who could not be located at the time of the trial. Thus, violating my son's Constitutional Rights to confront his accuser as outlined in both the US Constitution and the State of Texas Constitution. To this date, the "victim" has not been located nor has anyone in law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office done anything about this. Someone in Medina County dropped the due diligence ball. The case was appealed in 2006. The Appeal was denied. No one wants to listen. Hence, my son now faces 4 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, he is a registered sex offender and was unable to secure gainful employment. He was placed on probation and was violated due to the lack of employment because this was an alleged sex crime that was never proven. Instead of his attorney requesting a dismissal or the District Attorney refusing to prosecute or the judge dismissing the case based upon the written statement, they went forward knowing that my son’s civil rights had been violated.

In addition, my son has been diagnosed as Bi-Polar with severe depression.

This stigma will remain with him for the remainder of his life. He is 30 years old. If this is not dismissed and expunged, his life is over.

david lahey   May 8th, 2009 11:30 am ET

police are out of control when they are chasing cars at high speeds,to think that is has become so important to catch a car and put the public at risk of injury and death,police are addrenalin junkies and to chase a car down feeds their thurst,and as we know and have witnessed police cars in general are always going faster than everyone else,even when they are driving to their post to start work or going home,police believe they are above the laws they impose on us and when they wreck or kill someone they want to cover it up or blame the car they hit,police are the danger on the roads in pursuits,it is not worth the pain of the survivors they leave behind,he is guilty,he patrols this area and then tries to say he did not know about the stop sign,need i say more,they are like drunk driver,out of control,david in fl

Chi Town   May 8th, 2009 1:44 pm ET

If innocent they should go free... period.

I don't agree with lawsuits for wrongful conviction though... becuause it was the tools of the time and a jury.

This type of thing will continue as long as we make gains in technology and have bottom feeding lawyers.

joyce   May 8th, 2009 3:03 pm ET

I agree with you Brenda. If you want to free the innocent why do you not want to convict the guilty

Lisa   May 9th, 2009 8:12 pm ET

To Mr. Solano,
I am so sorry for you, your son and family. It is a shame when anyone is wrongfully convicted. I agree that the laws should be just as stringent going both directions. If we as a society don't demand and hold our governing bodies responsible at EVERY turn, we will have a government that is out of control. I see many indicators that this is what we are going to have as more exceptions are made to "toeing the line".

However, just as an injustice occurs when someone is wrongfully jailed, so is it an injustice when a "sinner is set free" without having to pay an appropriate penalty.

Injustice, regardless of the wrong needs to have the light shed upon it as frequently and for as long as it takes for righteousness to return to our society.

Lisa Hamilton   May 9th, 2009 8:46 pm ET

While I applaud anyone's effort to free those who are truly innocent, I have a problem with the fact that prosecutors are held to a much higher standard. Prosecutors are supposed to fight for truth and only prosecute those who they continue to believe are truly guilty, while the often over-paid defense lawyer can know, suspect, or feel their client is guilty but use every trick in the book to get them off if the prosecution can't "prove it"!
Defense attorneys will never have my respect until they have to live up to the same standard the prosecutors do- – - FINDING the truth, not just throwing the entire burden on the prosecution.
I am sure OJ wasn't the first defendant that Barry Sheck defended that HE knew was guilty as sin. But, because the prosecution "botched it", OJ deserves to be free after beheading his wife and killing a young man???
Jami, if Nicole had been black, you probably would see this case differently. But, after all, she was a beautiful white woman who stole a wealthy black man from all those more deserving black women. It doesn't really matter if OJ got away with leaving his children without a mother or the Goldman family in complete sorrow for the rest of their lives, does it???

Jennifer Lee Barringer, Esq.   May 17th, 2009 4:34 pm ET

As a former employee at the Innocence Project, as well as a frequent guest on your show, I want to thank you for commending and commenting on the noble work of Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, who have changed the landscape of the law. In an era where many people jump immediately to a presumption of guilt, often fueled by the media, your comment represents a return to a time where we may once again be innocent UNTIL PROVEN guilty. Calling attention to the thousands of actually innocent people, languishing wrongfully behind bars, should remind us all that the American experiment is not yet over and that we must work tirelessly to reaffirm our commitment to the constitional rights of citizens.
All the Best,
Jennifer Barringer

linda   May 18th, 2009 10:02 pm ET

Barry Scheck and Neufield lost me also in the OJ case.
They knew darn well OJ was guilty and still defended him.
What makes them credible now when it comes to the other side?

doretha   April 15th, 2010 9:17 pm ET

I have a brother sentenced to55 years for a murder and intent he did not commit. 5 people including the 1victim still alive testified that they did not know who did the shooting. Prosecutor had 1 witness name tyra come from the back crying, she testified against my brother and he was convicted on both charges even though the one surviving witness stated he couldn'y say my brother did the shooting they gave my brother 10 years anyway. My brother never had a gun, dna ,or a motive. He still after 6yrs profess his innocence. Later before sentencing the only witness mailed 3 letters to the cook county jail, my broher recieved them they stated how tyra was sorry for lying but she was forced by the police. He is up for appeal but we have no money. What can I do to help my lil-brother have part of his life back. Prosecutors new he was innocent they needed a win he had a public defender as usually they dont care nor investigate they bargain your life away. Not to memtion the judge didnt want to see the letters on the day of sentencing he took my brother life away and shredded my entire family hopes and dreams. Tje judge allowed the jury to go home for a night after not being able to reach a verdict the next day they return to court with a guilty verdict, they wanted to get back to their families. BUT they Took mine wrongfully. Why arent prosecutors and judges held accountable for their misjustice, who in the hell invented public defenders when they are really just social workers you talk about the problem they have no solution and no fight for justice.

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