Pennsylvania Innocence Project Celebrates 4th Anniversary with Dinner Honoring Voices of Innocents
Nearly 300 supporters gathered on Wednesday, May 8th for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project’s 4th anniversary celebration, held at the National Constitution Center. The event celebrated the Project’s ongoing work, and the theme of the evening was the Voices of Innocents; both those who have been exonerated and those who speak forcefully and passionately on behalf of the innocent who remain wrongfully incarcerated.
Exoneree and Board member Kirk Bloodsworth begins the program
The Philadelphia Girls Choir
The theme began during the reception where Artist Kristen Schattenfield-Rein did a live painting titled “The Voice of the Innocent.”
As part of the silent auction, attendees were able to bid on the painting while watching Ms. Schattenfield-Rein create the...
Pa. Innocence Project Helping to Promote Best Practices Statewide
A victim or witness to a crime is asked later “can you identify the perpetrator.” That witness is shown a photo array or live lineup where they make an identification of someone; maybe even saying they are “sure” they are right. But sometimes – in over 80% of wrongful convictions for sexual assault – that assuredness turns out to be wrong. The witness just picks the wrong person; an innocent person. Why? Partly because we know now, thanks to over 30 years of solid scientific research, that human memory is not like a videotape.
If we know how to run eyewitness identification procedures in a way that results in more accurate and reliable identifications, shouldn’t we be doing it? Don’t we all want to have better evidence before arrests get made?
Getting Guilty Convictions Right: More Than Meets the Eye
A public forum on how innocent people get convicted of crimes they did not commit, and what law enforcement is doing to prevent
it from happening took place at Arcadia University this past January. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and present The event,
co-sponsored by the Cheltenham chapter of the NAACP and
the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, was well-attended despite the bitter cold.
First, Pennsylvania Innocence Project Legal Director Marissa Bluestine provided background on the science of eyewitness
misidentifications – that scientists have been studying human memory for over 30 years, and what they have learned as a result
of that vigorous work. Ms. Bluestine also introduced reforms that law enforcement agencies are undertaking nationwide to ensure that
witness memory is preserved as best as possible and how police are trying to get the most accurate and reliable identifications
possible using updated methods.
False Confessions: Intersecting Science, Ethics, and the Law
Confessions have long been considered the gold standard of evidence in obtaining criminal convictions. However, with the advent of the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations, it has become clear that many defendants have, in fact, confessed to crimes they did not commit.
The symposium held November 9, 2012, at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, and sponsored by Temple Law Review & the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, brought together the leading experts from the fields of law, criminology and psychology on the subject of false confessions for a day of extremely insightful and thought-provoking discussions on why attorneys, juries and judges should carefully weigh the credibility of any confession, and the need for videotaping all interviews and interrogations conducted during a criminal investigation.
Richard C. Glazer, the first elected chair of the Philadelphia Board of Ethics and executive director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project,
has been named as the recipient of the PNC Achievement Award to be presented at the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Annual Meeting Luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
On Monday, October 1, at the law firm of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project hosted the Pennsylvania leg of a national tour aimed at developing polices to address issues of prosecutorial error and intentional misconduct. The event, Prosecturial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson, came about after the United States Supreme Court reversed death row exoneree John Thompson's $14.5 million verdict in civil court, which a jury had awarded him for what they found to be egregious violations of his civil rights at the hand of the New Orleans District Attorney. The event, which had overflow attendees, began with a video introducing Mr. Thompson's case, and the extent to which prosecutors went to secure an improper conviction against him. Mr. Thompson, now the director of Resurrection After Exoneration, then spoke about his ordeal and gave an impassioned speech calling for proper accountability.
While the number of cases involving prosecutorial error may never truly be known, Emily West of The Innocence Project in New York presented data showing that, where prosecutorial error resulted in a new trial, those errors tended primarily to be in the areas of opening and closing arguments or jury selection, with some examples of withheld evidence. Because Pennsylvania appellate courts only publish 9% of their opinions, the cases are difficult to track.
In addition, the audience heard from Judge William Carpenter, of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, who provided information about statewide efforts to ensure the integrity of convictions by revisions to eyewitness identification procedures, taping of interrogations, and other measures which are underway. Thomas Wilkinson, the President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, who discussed proposed revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct which would require prosecutors to inform the court if exculpatory evidence arises. Finally, we were pleased to have Greg Rowe, the Legislative Liaison for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys' Association, present the view from the prosecutors' side; in particular, that no prosecutor wants to arrest or prosecute the wrong person, and that all parts of the criminal justice system are beginning to come together to address these and other issues of reform.
The evening was informative for all who attended, and the discussion quite spirited. The Prosecutorial Oversight tour will continue on to California later this month, following which a comprehensive report will be issued bringing together the suggestions from all of the venues.
Pennsylvania Innocence Project Celebrates 3rd Anniversary with Gala Highlighting Justice and Science
Nearly 200 supporters gathered on Wednesday, May 23rd at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project's 3rd
anniversary gala, held at the Power Plant in Old City Philadelphia. The event celebrated the
Project's ongoing work and highlighted the serious role that science plays in innocence cases.
More than ever, science has become an indispensable ally in the fight for justice. DNA test results
have lifted up the gates to freedom for hundreds of the imprisoned innocent. Because of the
undisputed accuracy of DNA testing, we now know that wrongful convictions are a recurring
phenomenon that has systemic and correctible causes.
The event program placed particular focus on certain forensic tests routinely relied upon by the
prosecution in wrongful conviction cases now proven to be "junk" science. The masters of ceremonies
for the event were Project Executive Director Richard Glazer and Board President David Richman.
The Project's Legal Director, Marissa Boyers Bluestine, could not be in attendance as she was
engaged in court proceedings in another part of the Commonwealth on behalf of a Project client.
Benefit performances and CLE program produce standing room only crowd and stimulating discussion on issues of race and justice and wrongful convictions!
On February 15, 2012, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project (PIP) teamed with the Pennsylvania Capital Representation Project (PCRP) to cosponsor an event focused on the issues raised by the notorious 1930s case of the Scottsboro Boys. The program was offered at the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre in conjunction with the Theatre’s production of the musical play The Scottsboro Boys. The production is styled on a minstrel show and tells the story of the nine Scottsboro defendants.
Help the Pennsylvania Innocence Project Prevent Innocent People from Being Wrongly Convicted of Crimes in Pennsylvania
Bills have been introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate that would put into action the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions and would help avoid wrongful convictions in the future. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is working to pass the bills into law, and we need your help and support. To learn what you can do to bring significant change to Pennsylvania's criminal justice system...
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which was not part of the Advisory Committee process, supports most of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. However, in some areas, further reforms are necessary to ensure fair proceedings and to protect against wrongful convictions. Toward that end, the Project suggests additional proposals, as outlined in the White Paper.
The recommendations in the Advisory Committee's report have now been introduced as legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed by Chairman Stewart Greenleaf. We will provide information through this web site and our blog as the legislation progresses through the Pennsylvania Assembly. Please feel free to forward this White Paper to others interested in supporting the Pennsylvania Innocence Project's efforts to prevent wrongful convictions.
Innocence Project Featured
The Fall 2011 issue of the Temple Review, Temple University's alumni magazine, featured an article on the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.