News 09.01.10

When the Defense Fails

When an innocent defendant goes on trial, the skill, dedication and resources of his or her defense attorney can mean the difference between an acquittal and a wrongful conviction.

A report released today by the Innocence Project examines the first 255 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing and finds that at least 20% raised claims of ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. In the overwhelming majority of those cases (81%), appeals courts rejected the defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance. In only 10 of the first 255 DNA exoneration cases, courts found that that the actions, or lack thereof, of defense counsel required a reversal of a trial verdict or another review by lower courts.

Download the full Innocence Project report


Read more about cases where bad defense lawyering played a role in wrongful convictions


News from the Innocence Blog

on public defense funding shortfalls this year in Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada and California.

Read the chapter on inadequate defense lawyering from “Actual Innocence,” by Innocence Project Co-Directors

Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld with Jim Dwyer


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