The Innocence Project: How Many Convictions Have Been Reversed?

In 1992, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld had a groundbreaking concept: if DNA technology could demonstrate that people were guilty of crimes, it could also prove that those who had been wrongfully convicted were innocent. This led to the formation of the Innocence Project, a legal clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. To recognize the contributions of statisticians in this area, the Innocence Project coordinated a special issue of Significance, a journal of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association.

This issue included articles on the need for objective measurements, reliability, and the validity and meaning of a “coincidence”, co-authored by Project Innocence attorney Dana Delger. To date, the Innocence Project has handled cases for 196 clients. Of these cases, 43% have proven their innocence, 42% have confirmed their guilt, and 15% have inconclusive or no evidence. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) administers the post-conviction DNA testing grant program to exonerate the innocent and help cover costs associated with reviewing post-conviction cases, locating evidence, and DNA testing in violent crime cases. The Innocence Project also works to prevent further wrongful convictions by conducting research and promotion related to their causes. Every year, 2,400 inmates write to the Innocence Project and they evaluate between 6,000 and 8,000 potential cases.

The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE) lists 1,944 exonerations since 1989 (including both DNA and non-DNA exonerations), with 24% citing inadequate forensic data. In order to educate people on how human factors can lead to wrongful convictions, the Ohio Innocence Project and the Innocence Project collaborated with the Innocence Network and the International Association of Police Chiefs to create a series of educational videos. The Innocence Project also fights systemic problems through strategic litigation, policy reforms, and education. The figures provided by the Innocence Project give us an overview of wrongful convictions rectified with their help. It is evident that they are making a difference in many people's lives by providing them with justice.

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