Post-Conviction Innocence Claims Toolbox

Introduction

Innocent people are convicted of crimes and spend years in prison while the real offender remains free.  Although it is exceedingly difficult to overcome a conviction, even for an innocent individual, convictions are being overturned and individuals are being exonerated with increasing frequency.  According to the Innocence Project, over 300 individuals have been exonerated based on DNA evidence, while other individuals are being exonerated without DNA evidence.      

Issues in Post-Conviction Cases

 
Habeas Procedure & Strategies   

National Academy of Sciences Report Overviews, Updates and Litigation  

The Innocence Network brief bank   

Background Reading

The Causes of Wrongful Conviction, The Innocence Project -- Understand the Causes 
 
Why Our Justice System Convicts Innocent People and the Challenges Faced By Innocence Projects Trying to Exonerate Them, Steven A. Krieger, 14 New Criminal Law Review 333 (2011). 
 
Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, Brandon L. Garrett, Harvard University Press (2011) (examining the first 250 DNA exonerations to determine what went wrong) 
 
Webcast: How Flaws in the Criminal Justice System Result in Wrongful Convictions, Georgetown University Law Center (Dec. 2011).  
 
Righting What's Wrong in Criminal Justice -- a nine article series by Sue Russell from Pacific Standard (www.psmag.com), which is an arm of the nonprofit Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy 

Recent News Stories

A Human Tragedy, Billy Smith II, Houston Chronicle, January 28, 2013 (stories of 24 exonerees who spent years in Texas prisons for crimes they didn't commit)
 
 
 
 
Cleared of One '95 Murder, 3 Men Have Conviction Vacated in a 2nd, Colin Moynihan, The New York Times, January 23, 2013
 
 
 
 
Lawyers, Saying DNA Cleared Inmate, Pursue Access to Data, Ethan Bronner, The New York Times, January 3, 2013 (the importance of allowing defense counsel access to the government run DNA databases)
 
 
Testing State's Huge Backlog of Rape Evidence Kits Comes With Hefty Price Tag, Brandi Grissom, The New York Times, January 3, 2013
 
 
Cleared in One '95 Killing, 3 Seek Reversal in Another, Colin Moynihan, The New York Times, January 2, 2013
 
 
Perdue Pardons Wilmington 10, Anne Blythe, Charlotte Observer, January 1, 2013
 
 
 
 
Governor's Pardon Power Used Too Rarely, Margaret Colgate Love, Op-Ed, San Francisco Chronicle, December 28, 2012
 

’80 Murder Confession Raises Calls to Require Police to Record Interrogations, Maurice Chammah, The New York Times, December 27, 2012

 
 
 A Massive Mess of Forensics, Radley Balko, The Huffington Post, December 26, 2012 
 
 
Intentional Bias in North Carolina, Editorial, The New York Times, December 25, 2012 (a judge resentenced three death-row inmates to life without parole under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act because the judge found "powerful evidence" of racial bias)
 
 
Pressure Mounts to Free 'Wilmington Ten,' Jessica Jones, NPR, December 24, 2012 ("A group of North Carolinians convicted of arson decades ago in a controversial court case are asking the outgoing governor for a pardon of innocence")
 
 
Pardons for the Wilmington 10, Editorial, The New York Times, December 22, 2012
 
 
D.C. Judge Exonerates Santae Tribble of 1978 Murder Based on DNA Hair Test, Spencer Hsu, The Washington Post, December 14, 2012
 
 
Santae Tribble Finds Justice Still Delayed, Editorial, The Washington Post, December 13, 2012
 
 
Court of Inquiry in Michael Morton Case Delayed, Brandi Grissom, The Texas Tribune, December 12, 2012 ("The court of inquiry that will determine whether the former prosecutor who oversaw the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton could face criminal charges will be delayed until Feb. 4, a prosecutor with the Texas attorney general’s office said Monday.")
 
 
Chicago: The False Confession Capital, Byron Pitts, 60 Minutes, December 9, 2012 ("It's hard to believe people would confess to a heinous crime they didn't commit, but they do -- especially teenagers -- and there is no place in the U.S. where this has occurred more than in Chicago. Byron Pitts reports.") 
 
 
Why Do People Falsely Confess to Crimes?, Andrew Cohen, CBS News, December 9, 2012 ("CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen weighs in on this week's 60 Minutes report "The False Confession Capital.") 
 
 
Since 1979, Brian Murtagh has Fought to Keep Convicted Murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in Prison, Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post, December 5 2012 ("Forty-two years ago, Green Beret Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald stabbed and bludgeoned to death his pregnant wife, Colette, and his two little girls ... or he didn’t.) 
 
 
 
New Bills Focus on Wrongful Convictions, Shannon Wolfson, KXAN.com (Austin, TX, NBC affiliate), December 3, 2012 (Texas Senator Rodney Ellis wants to create a Texas Innocence Commission to examine wrongful convictions and how prosecutors and defense attorneys share evidence)
 
 
The Innocent Man (Part One and Two), Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly, November & December 2012 (a comprehensive story on the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton)
 
 
 
Exoneration But No Justice for Wrongly Imprisoned Man in VA, Editorial, The Washington Post, November 29, 2012
 

Johnathan Montgomery, Wrongly Convicted Man, Released From Virginia State Prison, Brock Vergakis, The Huffington Post, November 22, 2012

 
Virginia's '21-day Rule' Needs to Go, Editorial, The Washington Post, November 20, 2012
  
A Growing Battle for Exoneration, Maurice Chammah, The New York Times, November 17, 2012 (convicted of child sexual abuse due to questionable science and a victim has recently recanted)
 
 
Member of "Central Park Five" Talks Justice, Michel Martin, NPR, November 15, 2012
 
 
Father Acquitted of Murder Asks Why Daughter Is Still in Prison, Brandi Grissom, The New York Times, November 15, 2012

A Wrongly Imprisoned Man in Virginia, Editorial, The Washington Post, November 13, 2012 
 
Exonerated After 25 Years: A Murder Conviction Overturned, Katie Couric Show, November 13, 2012 
 
Case Asks When New Evidence Means a New Trial, Adam Liptak, The New York Times, November 12, 2012
 
Supreme Court to Decide if Actual Innocence Claim Excuses Late Habeas Filing,  Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, October 29, 2012 (The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether an inmate who claims actual innocence is excused from the time limit for filing a habeas claim where Michigan inmate Floyd Perkins filed his habeas petition six years after obtaining the last of three affidavits supporting his claim of innocence, which was five years too late in Michigan) 
 
 
When Mass Hysteria Convicted 5 Teenagers, Brent Staples, The New York Times, Op-Ed, October 27, 2012 (discussing a new documentary about the five black and Hispanic teenagers who were wrongly convicted in the beating and rape of a young, white jogger in Central Park in the spring of 1989)
 
Exoneration for a Man in Prison for 2 Years, Mosi Secret, The New York Times, October 26, 2012 (assault conviction was reversed after a special investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office revealed defendant was the victim of mistaken eyewitness testimony and innocent of the crime) 
 
 
Family Seeks Pardon For Executed Man Convicted on Faulty Science, Mike Ward, Austin American-Statesman, October 24, 2012 (Texas Forensic Science Commission is pushing for review of Texas arson convictions that may have been tainted by discredited investigation techniques)
 
 
Evidence of Innocence: The Case of Michael Morton, Lara Logan, 60 Minutes, July 22, 2012 

 Organizations Exclusively Concerned with the Wrongfully Convicted

Centurion Ministries (represents wrongfully convicted individuals nationally)

The Innocence Project (represents wrongfully convicted individuals with DNA evidence nationally)

The Innocence Network (an affiliation of state and international organizations representing wrongfully convicted individuals located in their specific geographic region)

The National Registry of Exonerations (a joint project between the University of Michigan School of Law and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law)

National Center for Reason and Justice (assists people who are falsely convicted or simply accused of crimes against children nationally)

 

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