History of the Innocence Project

Imagine being confined to a prison cell due to a crime you did not commit. This is the type of injustice the Innocence Project is committed to liberating, and due to its efforts; 306 individuals who were wrongfully accused and imprisoned have been released, 18 of those individuals ended up on death row. It is dedicated to using DNA analyses to acquit individuals who have been wrongfully imprisoned. The project has a goal of improving the criminal justice system, to keep this injustice from reoccurring.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit organization and was established in the year 1992 by two men, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in New York City, as a segment of the Cardozo School of Law. It developed into a self-governing non-profit organization in the year 2003, but upholds its passionate affiliations with the Cardozo School of Law.    

It all started within a landmark study that was conducted by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Senate along with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. They concluded that over 70% of individuals who were wrongfully accused had been falsely identified by eyewitnesses.

The Innocence Project is the first and only one of its kind, lacking one percent from being 100%, meaning 99% of the individuals who were proven to be falsely accused and acquitted were of male gender, with minority groups accounting for 70% of those individuals. Eight-hundred and ninety-one individuals who were wrongfully convicted, were acquitted due to DNA analysis and the lack of DNA verification, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

The Innocence Projects have come to these statistics due to their involvement. The standard sentence served amongst those who are wrongfully accused is 13 years, 70% of which fall within minority groups. In addition to this, in 40% of those cases the person responsible was found innocent once DNA analyses was conducted. Roughly 50% of those individuals who were acquitted have received financial compensation, due to their unjust incarceration.

The Innocence Project has defended individuals in 35 of the 50 states, and although it was established in New York City, it receives and accepts cases worldwide. It is this projects mission to help acquit those who have been wrongfully accused, and prevent this pattern from repeating within our judicial system. There are other programs such as, the Innocence Network that aids in the acquittal of those wrongfully accused. Although, in the majority of the cases they represent, DNA analysis is not an option.

Along with keeping those wrongfully accused from being incarcerated, the Innocence Project also dedicates its time to conducting sponsorship research, focused on the reason behind wrongful convictions. There are various reasons why wrongful convictions transpire such as, inaccurate eyewitness identification, forensic science and false confessions.

The Innocence project has built their organization to assist those who fall within the cracks of today’s judicial system, and makes it a point to improve government wrongdoing, incompetent legal guidance and the use of inadequate sources. They have come a long way in improving our judicial system and thanks to their hard work and dedication, the odds of being wrongfully convicted for those who have been unjustly accused and incarcerated have decreased tremendously.