Representatives from the Innocence Project, exonerees and other stakeholders will join members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) today in Washington, D.C., on a panel to discuss how wrongful conviction disproportionately affects black communities and how policy reforms could address and help prevent this phenomenon. The panel coincides with an effort by the Innocence Project and its allies to urge the House of Representatives to pass the Senate-passed Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which would expand access to DNA testing in federal cases and reauthorize programs that help the wrongfully convicted prove their innocence and law enforcement identify the real assailants.
The event will feature CBC member, Representative Al Green (TX), Texas Senators Royce West and Rodney Ellis, chair of the Innocence Project Board of Directors; Lee Brown, the first African-American mayor of Houston and former police leader in several large cities; Rebecca Brown, Innocence Project policy director; and exonerated individuals Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five; Anthony Graves and Sabrina Butler Porter, who both served time on death row; and Jarrett Adams, who works as the post-conviction litigation fellow at the Innocence Project.
Senator West, will serve as moderator. Exonerees will share details of their wrongful conviction cases, and discuss how being black played a role in their wrongful convictions and what can be done to prevent future miscarriages of justice. Currently, 70 percent of the nation’s 344 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA evidence were of persons of color.
The panels will also focus on the efforts of lawmakers, such as Senator Ellis, to pass legislation to address wrongful conviction. They will also learn more about the Innocence Project’s policy agenda, specifically in the areas of: 1) eyewitness identification reform, 2) recording of interrogations, 3) improving access to post-conviction relief through the courts, 4) addressing the use of unvalidated forensic science, 5) better regulating the use of incentivized informants and 6) addressing government misconduct.
One federal policy initiative currently being pursued is the passage of the Senate-passed Justice For All Reauthorization Act, which must be passed by the House in order to be sent to the president for enactment. The bill (S. 2577) would reauthorize post-conviction DNA testing programs, crime laboratories and services for crime victims. The legislation would help wrongfully convicted people access post-conviction DNA testing to prove innocence, while strengthening public safety by helping to identify the real perpetrators of crime.
Last week, the Innocence Project issued an action alert calling on allies to contact members of the House leadership and urge them to pass S. 2577. To urge key members of Congress to pass this important legislation as soon as possible, please visit: Take Action Today & Urge U.S. House Leadership to #PassSenateJFAANOW !