Pennsylvania Innocence Project: Protecting Those Who Shouldn’t be in Prison
When a jury convicts someone and sentences him or her to prison, we assume the prosecution presented compelling and accurate evidence. We believe that the person was guilty as charged and that he or she deserves the resulting punishment.
Unfortunately, several people every year are wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit.
Pennsylvania’s Innocence Project is a group of volunteer attorneys, journalists, investigators and paralegals that protect these innocent people. Operating out of Temple Law School, their job is to re-examine evidence from the case, file for additional testing, and, with the help of modern technology, conclusively prove the convicted person is not guilty. Those serving lifetime prison sentences get a second fighting chance outside of the court system.
The Innocence Project’s goal is not to let the guilty walk free, but rather to free those who were unjustifiably sentenced to life in prison or death due to poor representation, inconclusive evidence, contaminated DNA samples or other reasons.
It is important to note, there must be conclusive evidence that the person is innocent. Most exonerations occur following DNA testing. In fact, DNA evidence has proved so valuable that 48 states mandate post-conviction testing at the cost of the government. To date, there have been 244 exonerations tied to post-conviction DNA testing. Many of the freed were wrongfully imprisoned for an average of 12 years.
In other cases, prisoners have been freed based on prior:
- Fabricated confessions
- Mistaken ID
- False testimony
- Suppression of evidence that favors the defendant
Those who are freed, have the right to be compensated for time spent wrongfully imprisoned. Some states have automatic damages for people who spent time in prison because of a wrongful conviction. However, this is often not enough to fully compensate for the emotional and psychological damage caused by years in prison. In many cases, it may also be possible to sue the state for the full compensation deserved.
Through its success, the Innocence Project gives hope to people wronged by our legal justice system. It gives people back their future.