The Innocence Project Online: May 2012


The Innocence Project Online: May 2012

Innocence Project

Innocence Project


In This Issue

Robert Dewey Exonerated in Colorado

Innocence Project Continues Fight to Free George Allen

Rape Conviction Dismissed for Bennie Starks After 20 Years in Prison

Why I Give: A Donor Profile


News Watch

Two Texas Executions Receive Renewed Scrutiny

Carlos DeLuna and Carlos Hernandez
Columbia University law school published a book-length article presenting the possible wrongful execution of Texas inmate Carlos DeLuna. According to the Columbia Human Rights Law Review piece, “Los Tocayos Carlos,” Carlos Hernandez, an acquaintance of DeLuna with a history of committing similar crimes was the real perpetrator.


The DeLuna case is one of several Texas executions that have been under scrutiny, including that of Cameron Todd Willingham. In response to the publication of the DeLuna article, Texas District Court Judge Charlie Baird told The Huffington Post that he was planning to posthumously exonerate Willingham in 2010 before he was prevented from doing so by a higher court. Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for the deaths of his three young daughters in a house fire.

National Exoneration Database Profiles 891 Wrongfully Convicted

The new National Registry of Exonerations, launched on May 21, profiles 891 people, including the 291 DNA exonerees, who were wrongfully convicted and then later exonerated through new evidence of innocence. The registry, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University School of Law, is the most comprehensive accounting of exonerations ever compiled.


Read more about the registry


Help Free the Innocent

With the generous support of individuals like you, the Innocence Project has exonerated scores of innocent people and worked around the country to reform our criminal justice system.

Donate Now


What You’re Saying


On post-conviction DNA testing reform in Kentucky:


Shawn C.

, via Facebook: “Wrongfully convicted is wrongfully convicted regardless of the sentence.”


Cin J.

, via Facebook: “Sometimes it makes you wonder if they refuse because they don’t want to be proven wrong and have to pay some kind of retribution to the (possible) falsely accused. It’s not going to cost the state money for the test, why not?”

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The Innocence Project

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New York, NY 10013

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Robert Dewey Exonerated in Colorado

Robert Dewey with his parents

On April 30, Robert Dewey walked out of the Mesa County Courthouse after 18 years of wrongful imprisonment. All charges in the rape and murder of Jacie Taylor were dropped after DNA testing established Dewey’s innocence and implicated the real perpetrator, a convicted rapist and murderer. Dewey became a suspect in the case because law enforcement found his actions following the crime suspicious. Pretrial DNA testing provided mixed results. The testing confirmed that Dewey was not the source of semen recovered from a blanket where the crime occurred. But the pretrial testing also indicated that blood on Dewey’s shirt was consistent with the victim and 45% of the population. The circumstantial evidence and the pretrial DNA results helped prosecutors convict Dewey.

With the help of the Innocence Project and co-counsel Danyel Joffe, additional testing was conducted pointing to Dewey’s innocence. His attorneys took this new evidence to the Colorado Attorney General’s newly formed Justice Review Project, which secured the collaboration of the original Mesa County prosecutor. Additional testing using modern methods confirmed that the victim’s blood was not on Dewey’s shirt. The testing also confirmed, through a hit in the CODIS DNA database, that the semen was left by Douglas Thames, a man who was incarcerated for committing a similar crime. The Mesa County District Attorney’s office is currently prosecuting Thames for Ms. Taylor’s murder.

To learn more about Robert Dewey’s case,

read our press release


Innocence Project Continues Fight to Free George Allen

George Allen with his mother

Thirty years after being convicted of rape and murder and sixteen years after the Innocence Project took his case, George Allen’s ordeal may soon be over. In May, lawyers from the Innocence Project and the law firm of Bryan Cave asked a Missouri judge to vacate George Allen’s 1982 conviction for the rape and murder of a St. Louis court reporter based on overwhelming evidence of innocence.

Police arrested Allen by accident believing him to be a suspect. After discovering their mistake, they decided to interrogate him anyway. During the interrogation, Allen, who is schizophrenic, told police that he was inebriated. A recording of the interrogation also reveals police guiding Allen about how to answer questions so that they fit the facts of the crime. One of the interrogating officers recently admitted that the confession was “iffy.”

In its original petition seeking to vacate Allen’s conviction, attorneys presented new DNA testing and previously undisclosed serology evidence excluding Allen. More recently, lawyers uncovered undisclosed evidence that fingerprints recovered at the crime scene also excluded Allen. In spite of the evidence supporting Allen’s innocence and establishing misconduct, the Missouri Attorney General’s office is defending Allen’s conviction. The judge has asked the parties to submit a joint statement of uncontested facts in anticipation of issuing a ruling.

Read more about George Allen’s case.

Rape Conviction Dismissed for Bennie Starks After 20 Years in Prison

Bennie Starks and his legal team

Lake County prosecutors have dismissed rape charges against an Illinois man who served 20 years for the crime. This is a reversal for the prosecutor’s office, which had threatened to retry Bennie Starks on the charges even though multiple rounds of DNA testing definitively excluded him as the perpetrator of the rape. The Innocence Project first obtained DNA test results suggesting Starks’ innocence in 2001.

Starks is one of the Innocence Project’s oldest active cases, having represented him since 1996. He has been free on bond since 2006. The change in heart from the Lake County’s State’s Attorney’s office comes in the wake of the resignation of Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Mermel, who stepped down in response to calls for his resignation by the Lake County Sheriff after an article exposing Mermel’s unwillingness to accept DNA science appeared in the

New York Times Magazine

. Additionally, an Illinois appeals court ruled in February that prosecutors were forbidden from using the earlier testimony of the victim, who is now deceased, in the retrial of Starks.

Unfortunately, Starks is still fighting a battery charge that we contend should have been thrown out with the rape charge. Oral arguments before an Illinois appeals court were held earlier this month and a decision is expected sometime later this year.

Donald Verger

Why I Give: A Donor Profile

Donald Verger

Artist/ Founder & President Emeritus of the Childrens’ Discovery Museum and Science Discovery Museum

Portland, ME

It’s clear to me how dangerous and prevalent mistaken eyewitness identification is because I experienced it. I was misidentified as the person who robbed a Portland, Maine, hair salon. I was handcuffed, brought to jail and put behind bars. What I heard was: ‘We’ve got the guy who robbed the hair salon.’ I never experienced the presumption of innocence that we all believe exists in this country. If I had been a person of color or a man without some means, I would probably be in prison now. I really wanted to contribute to criminal justice reform, so I offered to do a series of photography shows in Maine, and donated 100% of the proceeds of all the sales to the Innocence Project.

Join Donald in supporting the Innocence Project.

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