This year marks the Innocence Project’s 30th anniversary, and it has been one filled with powerful moments that were skillfully captured on camera. From the campaign to stop Melissa Lucio’s execution to the exonerations of Mallory Nicholson, John Galvan, and Herman Williams, these events not only reflect milestone achievements but also serve as important reminders of why our work in criminal and racial justice reform is necessary.
From poignant portraits to representations of activism in action, these images convey different emotional states: joy, optimism, excitement, confidence, calmness, steadfastness, and more. They tell stories of the years lost to wrongful conviction, of a life returned, and of a hopeful future. Most importantly, they are hard proof that the criminal legal system continues to ensnare innocent people — and that freedom is a precious right too often taken for granted.
These images are just a small sample of the countless moments captured this year, all of which are enduring records of lived experiences that drive our work every day.
1. Huwe Burton reflects on his passion for music
Huwe Burton shares how music helped him retain hope through his many years of wrongful conviction in a moving story published in February.
2. Melissa Lucio’s supporters rally against her scheduled execution
Dozens of supporters for Melissa Lucio bring attention to her case in March at the 26th Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice — an annual march that pays tribute to labor and civil rights leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta — in San Antonio, Texas.
3. Mallory Nicholson is exonerated after 40 years
Mallory Nicholson celebrates his exoneration in June after being wrongly convicted of a burglary and sexual assault he never committed.
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4. John Galvan walks free in Chicago
In June, John Galvan experiences freedom for the first time in 35 years after he, along with his co-defendants Arthur Alemendarez and Francisco Nanez, were wrongly convicted of an arson they did not commit. They are exonerated just days later, on July 21.
5. Herman Williams is finally home
Herman Williams comes home in September after an Illinois judge vacated his murder conviction and ordered his immediate release.
6. Gerry Thomas rebuilds his life following 30 years of wrongful conviction
Gerry Thomas, who was wrongly convicted of a sexual assault and attempted murder he never committed, shares how creating became his “spiritual food” in powerful story published in Februrary.
7. Michelle Murphy poses for a portrait at the 2022 Innocence Network Conference
In 2014, Michelle Murphy was exonerated after DNA testing proved her innocence in a murder she did not commit. She is the first among a growing number of women the Innocence Project has helped exonerate.
8. Paul Hildwin shows off his tattoos at the 2022 Innocence Network Conference
In 2020, Paul Hildwin, who spent 29 years on death row, walked free in Florida after a court ordered his release with time served. He has always maintained his innocence in a 1985 murder for which he was convicted.
9. Cornelius Dupree and Marvin Anderson come together on Wrongful Conviction Day
Exonerees Cornelius Dupree and Marvin Anderson join supporters and other exonerees at the Riverside Church in New York to commemorate Wrongful Conviction Day.
10. New York City unveils the Gate of the Exonerated in Central Park in honor of wrongfully convicted individuals
Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson Jr. — all of whom are members of the Exonerated Five — celebrate the renaming of a Central Park entrance in tribute to wrongly convicted people.