The Innocence Project
The Innocence Project (http://www.innocenceproject.org/) is an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners through DNA testing and preventing future injustice through criminal justice system reforms. The website’s mission statement informs us that “[t]o date, 266 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row.”
Besides this nonprofit organization’s critical role in providing direct representation or critical assistance to prisoners who can be proven innocent through DNA testing, its website provides various insightful resources. First, the website includes case profiles of prisoners exonerated by DNA testing (and a few cases of non-DNA exonerations). For example, there is a case profile of Kenny Waters (http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Kenny_Waters.php), who served 18 years in prison for murder before his sister, Betty Anne Waters – who put herself through college and law school in order to help with her brother’s case – and the Innocence Project brought about his exoneration via DNA testing. (Water’s case was dramatized in the 2010 movie, “Conviction,” starring Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell.) The website also explains several reasons for wrongful convictions, including eyewitness misidentifications, false confessions/admissions, and government misconduct (e.g., by law enforcement officials and prosecutors). Further, the website describes proposed and adopted legislation and other reforms (e.g., to eyewitness identification procedures), with numerous links to full-text documents. In addition, the website links to other useful and interesting websites, such as related governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as exoneree’s websites. Lastly, the Innocence Project also has a blog that is updated daily (http://www.innocenceproject.org/news/Blog.php).
The Innocence Project’s website is easy-to-use and provides a good starting point for research on the topic of prisoners exonerated on the basis of DNA testing. For instance, you can browse the exonerees’ case profiles alphabetically (by exonerees’ name or state) or chronologically (by conviction or exoneration year). Alternatively, you can search by selecting one or more parameters: exonerees’ name, conviction year, exoneration year, jurisdiction (i.e., state where convicted), contributing cause (e.g., eyewitness misidentification), whether the real perpetrator has been found, and/or whether the exoneree has been compensated for the wrongful conviction.
As a student in Cornell Law School’s “Advanced Criminal Procedure: Post-Conviction Remedies” class, I find this website to be an excellent resource as I consider potentially writing my research paper on proof of innocence as one form of post-conviction remedy. By being informed of the names of exonerees, I can easily conduct Google searches to locate other relevant information and resources. For example, by googling “Terry Chalmers” (one of the exonerees listed on the Innocence Project’s website), I was able to quickly locate other helpful websites like http://www.DNA.gov (click here for the page on Terry Chalmers).