Ask a Staff Attorney


We asked yesterday for you to submit questions for Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin. We received nearly 100 questions, and Vanessa answered several of them today in the short video above.

She discusses her background and the types of skills we look for in Innocence Project staff and volunteers and then covers issues ranging from eyewitness identification to false confessions to police and prosecutorial misconduct to shaken baby syndrome. Watch her video responses above.

And after the jump, we answer a few more questions that Vanessa didn’t get to:


Janelle White Natalie

asked: How do you go about getting a case reviewed by the innocence project and do they all have to be DNA case?


Yes, we only accept cases where biological evidence can help overturn a conviction, but we have many Innocence Network partners who accept non-DNA cases. Vanessa explains the reasoning behind this policy in the video.

All cases for consideration must be submitted via postal mail to: Innocence Project, 40 Worth Street Suite 701, New York, NY 10013.

Q: Connie Schmidt

asked: What can I do to get involved with the program? Are there any positions open for internship or anything like that? If so, what qualifications are necessary?


All employment, volunteer, and internship openings are listed on our website under ‘About’ and ‘Opportunities’. The qualifications needed vary and will be specified under the position you are applying for.  To get a sense of the sort of work experience that our staff has, visit the staff page.

Q: Chris Griffin asked:

Innocent and incarcerated/on death row; a failure of justice in each case – what are some reforms the justice system can make to help put an end to our justice system failing all of us? Both for past cases and future ones…


The reforms needed are vast, but the Innocence Project has identified seven “priority issues” where targeted reforms can prevent future wrongful convictions. They are: eyewitness identification, false confessions, forensic oversight, evidence preservation, exonoree compensation, innocence commissions, and access to DNA testing.

Q: Tee Harris asked:

When will the exonerees be paid in a more speedy fashion? Especially since they were arrested in a speedy fashion?


Statues for compensation vary state-to-state. Currently, the federal government, D.C., and 27 other states offer some form of compensation. The Innocence Project, along with many other organizations, works towards an end goal of each state guaranteeing compensation to all exonorees. About 60 percent of DNA exonerees nationwide have received some form of compensation.

Q: Carla Irish asked

: Is it true that 1 in 100 US CITIZENS is incarcerated?


Yes. According to a 2008 Pew Charitable Trust report, more than 1 in 100 adult U.S. Citizens are incarcerated.

Q: Deborah King asked:

I also have a son in prison for a crime he did not commit.(in AR) I would be interested in knowing if Innocence Project has a branch to help wrongly convicted when no DNA but also no other evidence against them at all. Or is there another organization you are aware of that helps in those cases? And Id like to thank you all at Innocence Project for the work you do, and for making the public aware of how often this happens in America.


The Innocence Project of Arkansas (contact information below) accepts non-DNA cases within the state of Arkansas.

Innocence Project Arkansas

School of Law Legal Clinic

Robert A. Leflar Law Center

1 University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, AR 72701


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Diana Pierre September 5, 2021 at 3:34 am Reply   

My name is Diana Pierre…I’m from Miami Florida.
There is an issue that needs attention and assistance…I’m helping an inmate by the name Terry Hill located at East Mississippi correctional institute.. sentence to 105 years for crimes he has not commit…I’ve involved an private investigator on his case…that’s has all details about the case he just needs an attorney…I need his story told…and help with an attorney…please could you help…thanks

Phylicia Freeman December 17, 2018 at 4:18 pm Reply   

Robert Cooper of (Va) has been convicted of a murder that he did not commit. The main witness in the case was what they consider a “jail house snitch”. The witness lied to get their charges ( which are unrelated to this case dropped) he has since admitted to lying but he is scared to tell the truth because he doesn’t want to go to jail being that he is currently on probation. Robert Cooper isn’t the only one who has been convicted because of this witness this witness has done this to others. If Robert Cooper doesn’t qualify for the help of the innocence Project can someone please give us information on where to get help.

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