Many of our clients were represented by lawyers who provided an inadequate defense.
In some of the worst wrongful conviction cases overturned by DNA testing, defense attorneys were found sleeping in the courtroom during the trial, absent at hearings, or later disbarred for a pattern of misconduct.
More broadly, however, lawyers who represent poor people often lack the resources necessary to investigate and defend against the evidence marshaled by robust police departments, prosecutor offices, and crime labs. Without investigators, experts, training, and compensation, defense counsel cannot meaningfully challenge the government’s case and the odds of a wrongful conviction increases. A 2022 report by the American Bar Association found that funding for public defenders — who are often the first line of defense for innocent people charged with crimes — would have to increase threefold in order to meet the standard of effective counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
At the Innocence Project, we recognize that appropriate funding for indigent defense is a necessary component of the effort to end wrongful conviction. We advocate for funding increases for innocence programs and forensic science research, we collaborate with local counsel and partner organizations to ensure that the people that we represent receive the best possible legal representation and the necessary resources to reverse a wrongful conviction. We also help cover costs associated with testing and investigation which we know to be out of range of many clients and defense teams.