Why Philadelphia needs an innocence project


Since the Innocence Project was founded in 1992, a network of organizations doing similar work has grown around the world, and today the

International Innocence Network

has more than 40 member organizations. Many members are clinics associated with law schools. Together, the local regions served by these groups cover most of the U.S. map. The Innocence Project (which accepts cases from all 50 states) only accepts cases involving DNA testing, and many local groups work on a broader range of cases – including wrongful convictions that can be overturned by evidence other than DNA tests.

There are still some gaps in the Innocence Network map however, and Philadelphia may be the most glaring one. It is the largest U.S. city without a local innocence organization. Nine wrongful convictions have been overturned by DNA testing in Pennsylvania, and others have been overturned by non-DNA evidence. Many of these cases were handled by the Innocence Project or the Innocence Institute of Point Park University – which covers the western half of the state.

An editorial in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer called for an office in the city to work on wrongful conviction issues.

The leading cause of the wrongful convictions in the 200 plus cases has been eyewitness misidentification. Other factors include false confessions, forensic fraud, government misconduct, lying snitches and bad lawyers.

All of those issues have cropped up in cases in Philadelphia over the years. That's all the more reason why an Innocence Project office is needed here. In fact, it's surprising the city lacks such an office, given its rich legal history.

The need is there. Just ask the more than 200 people who spent years in jail for crimes they didn't commit who have been set free.

Read the full editorial here

. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 04/27/08)


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