A year-end report issued on December 18, 2009, by the national Innocence Network, of which UW Law School Clinical Professor Keith Findley is president, details the cases of 27 wrongly-convicted individuals throughout the nation who were exonerated in 2009 through the work of innocence projects.
Three of the 2009 exonerations were brought about by the Wisconsin Innocence Project of the University of Wisconsin Law School: Chaunte Ott, Robert Lee Stinson, and Forest Shomberg. To date, the Wisconsin project has brought about the exonerations of 13 innocent people since its inception in 1998.
The report, "Innocence Network Exonerations 2009," presents the facts of each of this year's 27 exonerations in 12 states. Each case represents countless hours and sometimes years of ardent advocacy by attorneys, paralegals, investigators and students who comprise the Innocence Network. The report comes as the Innocence Network has become a crucial resource for the wrongfully convicted and their families. This year, it grew to include 54 member organizations, 45 of which are in the United States. The Wisconsin Innocence Project is a founding member of the Network. Each organization operates independently but they coordinate to share information and expertise.
"Every one of these cases had ripple effects well beyond the innocent person who was in prison. Entire families are forever changed when a loved one is wrongfully convicted, and victims of crime are poorly served when true perpetrators evade justice," said network President Keith Findley, Co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. "We need to learn from these cases and prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place."
Thirteen of the 27 exonerations were based on DNA testing, while the other convictions were overturned using other evidence. In all of the cases, indictments were dismissed after convictions were overturned, leading to official exonerations. The 27 cases in 2009 include an unprecedented posthumous exoneration in Texas, nine people who served more than 20 years, and three people who were sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit.
In addition to helping overturn wrongful convictions, Innocence Network organizations increasingly work to bring substantive reform to the criminal justice system. They advocate for improvements in eyewitness identification, forensic science, custodial interrogations, evidence preservation, compensation for the exonerated, and other aspects of the justice system.
The full year-end report from the Innocence Network can be found here.
More information on the Innocence Network can be found here.
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