The Innocence Project was born out of a study conducted by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Senate, together with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, which revealed that incorrect identification by eyewitnesses was a factor in more than 70% of wrongful convictions. This led to the formation of a small team of lawyers, volunteers, and students who began to address innovative legal cases to release the wrongfully convicted as a law clinic at the Cardozo Law School. With the support of a group of philanthropists, the Innocence Project became an independent nonprofit organization in 2004 and is still affiliated with Cardozo today. The Innocence Project organizations review the evidence they receive and, in some cases, DNA tests analyzed confirm that the right person is in prison.
Each year, Cincinnati Law's Ohio Innocence Project, which is among the most successful projects of the Innocence Network, selects a team of 20 law students, most of whom are in their second year, to serve as fellows. Thanks to their success, projects on innocence have received an avalanche of requests for representation submitted by prisoners who claim to have been wrongfully convicted. Maurice Hastings, who was unjustly imprisoned for 38 years and was released thanks to the work of the Los Angeles Innocence Project at Cal State LA, was found not guilty on Wednesday. Maurice Hastings, a 69-year-old man who was unjustly imprisoned for 38 years, was released last week after the results of a new DNA test presented by Cal State LA's Los Angeles Innocence Project (LAIP) conclusively indicated the existence of another suspect. Other policy measures advocated by projects on innocence include the modification of the procedures for identifying eyewitnesses, the preservation and analysis of DNA evidence, and the creation of funds to compensate those exonerated. The LAIP of Cal State, Los Angeles, will be the first innocence project of the Innocence Network to be incorporated into an academic forensic science program in the United States.
Marcus Sapp became the 39th person wrongfully convicted at large as a result of the work of the Ohio Innocence Project. The Innocence Project Northwest is a member of the Innocence Network, an organization that connects nearly 70 organizations working for innocence around the world. Charles Jackson, exonerated from the Ohio Innocence Project, talks to WKYC-TV in Cleveland about his freedom and his future after losing nearly three decades after being wrongfully convicted behind bars. In 1997, Professor Jacqueline McMurtrie founded the Northwest Innocence Project at the University of Washington Law School, which has been responsible for exonerating 14 people wrongfully convicted in Washington State. The mandatory recording of interrogations helps defense attorneys and organizations that defend innocence projects to obtain evidence of confessions obtained under duress. In 1992, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld founded The Innocence Project to be able to work on wrongful convictions in a more systematic way.
Both The New York Innocence Project and The Northwest Innocence Project have advocated for policy changes.