Features - Wrongful Conviction and Innocence Resources on the Internet

Ken Strutin (JD, MLS) is an experienced law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker. He is the author of The Insider's Guide: Criminal Justice Resources on the Internet, and has lectured extensively about the benefits of using the Internet for legal research at national and local CLE training programs. Mr. Strutin also wrote ALI-ABA's Practice Checklist Manual on Representing Criminal Defendants, and co-authored the award winning Legal Research Methodology computer tutorial, published by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). He has contributed chapters to several books and written many articles concerning knowledge management, legal research and criminal law. Mr. Strutin has taught courses in Advanced Legal Research and Law Office Management. He is also listed in Who's Who in American Law. Currently, Mr. Strutin is the Director of Legal Information Services at the New York State Defenders Association and writes a column for the New York Law Journal.

Introduction

Many people have been falsely accused and wrongly convicted in our criminal justice system.1 This bibliography focuses on the key websites and resources concerning this important issue.

Current AwarenessCase ProfilesConferences and Trainers
Innocence ProjectsReportsOrganizations
Innocence Project ResourcesLegislationBibliographies
CommissionsCourses 

Current Awareness

News about people who have been exonerated by DNA or released from prison after the discovery of new evidence or governmental misconduct can be found by searching various online media sources. And there are a few websites that do an excellent job of monitoring and collecting these stories.

  • CrimProf Blog
    This is a part of the Law Professors Blogs Network and is co-edited by Gabriel J. (Jack) Chin, Chester H. Smith Professor of Law, Professor of Public Administration & Policy, at the University of Arizona College of Law, and Mark A. Godsey, Associate Professor of Law, Faculty Director, Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project, University of Cincinnati College of Law. They frequently publish summaries of news items about unjust convictions and false arrests, in addition to other criminal law stories of interest.
  • DNA News (Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School)
    This is a summary of news concerning developments in post-conviction DNA applications and related issues. It is prepared by Peter J. McQuillan, former Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, and current member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science and the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee.
  • Innocence Blog (Innocence Institute of Point Park University)
    This web log publishes news about Institute cases, legislative action and other news developments from around the country concerning innocence claims and wrongful conviction. The blog is maintained by Innocence Institute of Point Park University, which is an innocence project focused on journalistic investigation.
  • Innocence News and Developments (Death Penalty Information Center)
    The Center publishes extensive summaries of news items about claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction of death row inmates, and related developments.
  • Justice Denied: The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted
    This magazine publishes stories about those who have been unjustly found guilty. It has a complete set of archives online, with links to additional resources. Current issues can be viewed, and a print subscription is available. The publication is produced by the Justice Institute, a non-profit organization staffed by volunteers.

<Table of Contents>

Innocence Projects

Several innocence projects have assembled contact lists of projects across the country and internationally. In most cases, they provide mailing addresses, some emails and web links. There is also information available about starting innocence projects.

Lists of Projects and Pro Bono Attorneys

Resources

Commissions

In the United States, commissions have been created, and more are in the planning stages, to investigate the efficacy of DNA testing for post-conviction relief and to examine the causes of and recommend procedures to forestall wrongful convictions. In the United Kingdom commissions look into claims of actual innocence, and in Canada similar bodies have been convened to investigate specific cases.

United States

<Table of Contents>

Case Profiles

Many of the innocence projects publish collections of profiles about the persons exonerated through their efforts, and in other cases.

  • Case Profiles (Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School)
    This is a compilation of summaries about post-conviction DNA exoneration cases.
  • Exonerations in All States (Northwest Center on Wrongful Convictions)
    The names of persons exonerated in each state are listed here, with select summaries for some.
  • Innocents Database (Justice Denied)
    This database has more than a thousand profiles of people worldwide who have been falsely convicted, with links to additional information where available.
  • Innocence and the Death Penalty (Death Penalty Information Center)
    The Center has amassed profiles in more than one hundred cases where death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. They also provide a unique collection of statistical information and reports on the subject.
  • Innocents on the Internet (Justice Denied)
    This is a collection of individually focused websites for people who claim to have been falsely accused or convicted.
  • Other Side of the Story (Innocent Inmates Association of Ohio)
    This site publishes and news and profiles of inmates in the Ohio prison system who have been wrongfully convicted.
  • Potential Cases of Wrongful Conviction (Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)
    This site is a national bulletin board of individual profiles of persons claiming wrongful conviction, whether on death row or not. They include case summaries and contact information.

Reports

This is a collection of a few seminal reports on wrongful conviction published by the government, academics, various organizations and the media.

  • Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty (Death Penalty Information Center 2004). This report focuses on wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. It examines the impact that the increasing numbers of innocent defendants on death row is having the on the debate over capital punishment.
  • Exonerations in the United States 1989-2003 (University of Michigan Law School 2004). This is a study of exoneration cases nationwide since the inaugural use of DNA in 1989. It examines such issues as false confessions and problems in the functioning of the criminal justice system overall. And it has been published as a law review article, Samuel R. Gross et al., Exonerations in the United States 1989 Through 2003, 95 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 523 (2005).
  • Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology (US 2003). This report describes the President's initiative and funding plan for the application of DNA technology to solve crimes, identify missing persons and protect the innocent. It describes the need to clear up backlogs and improve administration of DNA testing at the federal, state and local levels. A small portion of the fund is to be devoted to post-conviction testing.
  • An Ordinary Crime (Frontline 2002). This web site was created in conjunction with a Frontline investigation into the question of Terence Garner's innocence-he was convicted of robbery and attempted murder in North Carolina-and the many issues concerning the identification evidence and the prosecution of the case. See State v. Terence Garner: A System Goes Awry, Trial Briefs, Aug. 2002, at 35.
  • Fatal Flaws: Innocence and the Death Penalty in the USA (Amnesty International 1998)
    This report examines the global problem of innocent persons being sentenced to death.
  • What Jennifer Saw (Frontline 1998). This is a collection of stories and reports concerning misidentification, wrongful imprisonment and the work of The Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law.
  • Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial (National Institute of Justice 1996)
    This study focuses on cases where DNA testing exonerated people in pending and post-conviction cases.

<Table of Contents>

Legislation

The laws of interest for the wrongfully convicted range from regulations governing the conduct of witness lineups and police interrogations to DNA statutes authorizing preservation and testing.

  • Legislation (Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School)
    This site contains updates on legislative developments regarding DNA testing and other reforms to prevent and remedy wrongful convictions.
  • Innocence Protection Act of 2004 Summary (Justice Project)
    The most significant legislation to come along in recent years has been the Innocence Protection Act of 2004, part of the Justice for All Act, Public Law No. 108-405 (Oct. 30, 2004). It covers post-conviction DNA testing in the federal system, preservation of evidence, and grants for states that adopt similar procedures.
  • DPIC Summary: The Innocence Protection Act of 2004 (Death Penalty Information Center)
    This site reviews the Innocence Protection Act's provision to fund resources for the prosecution and defense of capital cases.
  • DNA and Crime (National Conference of State Legislatures)
    In 2003, the National Conference of State Legislatures compiled summaries of state rules for Post-Conviction DNA Motions and produced a Comparison of State Post Conviction DNA Laws.
  • State by State Review of "Post-Conviction DNA Testing" Statutes, Online Journal of Justice Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (2003)
    In this article, Kathy Swedlow, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence Project, examined post-conviction statutes enacted by the states and how they impact on traditional post-conviction remedies.
<Table of Contents>

 

Courses

Law schools, journalism programs, criminal justice schools, universities and colleges offer courses on wrong conviction and related topics. And the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School has developed electronic course materials, Wrongful Convictions Course, used by many educational institutions.

<Table of Contents>

 

Conferences and Trainers

In addition to the annual National Innocence Conference and Unlocking Innocence: An International Conference on Avoiding Wrongful Conviction, there are many training opportunities on related aspects of this issue and criminal defense in general, such as the death penalty, forensics, eyewitness identification, and DNA evidence. These trainers are often sponsored by innocence projects, criminal bar associations, and public defense organizations.

<Table of Contents>

 

Organizations

This is a select list of major organizations with information concerning wrongful conviction, individual rights and the death penalty.

Bibliographies and Other Resources

There are collections of wrongful conviction materials published on the web, and links to other key criminal justice research tools. In some cases, the full-text documents are available.

Footnote

1 See generally C. Ronald Huff et al., Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy 62 (1996); Samuel R. Gross et al., Exonerations in the United States 1989 Through 2003, 95 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 523, 551 (2005); Death Penalty Information Center (Issues: Innocence); and Innocence Project (Case Profiles: Chronological Listing).