– Mission Statement –
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project works to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit and to prevent innocent people from being convicted.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project has a four-fold mission to: (1) secure the exoneration, release from imprisonment, and restoration to society of persons who are innocent and have been wrongly convicted; (2) provide clinical training and experience to students in the fields of law, journalism, criminal justice, and forensic science; (3) collaborate with law enforcement agencies and the courts to address systemic causes of wrongful convictions; and (4) strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania through public education and advocacy.
– A Brief History –
In 2008, a group of lawyers founded the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as a non-profit corporation under the leadership of David Richman and David Rudovsky. The Project found its home at Temple University Beasley School of Law because of the Dean, JoAnne Epps’, immense support and enthusiasm.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project opened its doors in April of 2009. That fall, students from Temple Law School and Villanova University School of Law began working with us as interns, helping to screen and evaluate cases. Since then, we added programs with Thomas R. Kline Drexel School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Rutgers University Law School, and Penn State School of Law. In 2016, we added an office in Pittsburgh, housed by Duquesne University Law School, and including interns from the University of Pittsburgh School of law. This office helps to better serve many of our clients incarcerated in Western Pennsylvania and build upon our movement for wrongful conviction reform statewide.
– Our Impact –
In our eight years of work, we have exonerated five men – Eugene Gilyard, Lance Felder, Jim Fogle, Donte Rollins, and Shaurn Thomas – and one woman, Crystal Weimer, from unjust incarcerations. In addition, we have secured new trials for two Pennsylvanians wrongly convicted, and helped in two cases which resulted in Alford pleas – where the men pled no contest to reduced charges while asserting their innocence and were immediately released from prison. Another client, Tyrone Jones, was among the first Pennsylvanians resentenced as a former “juvenile lifer.” Tyrone was paroled even as he continued to assert his innocence.
In addition to identifying and litigating cases for the convicted innocent, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project works to improve the criminal justice system to prevent innocent people from being convicted. The Project works to educate all stakeholders in the criminal justice system on the reasons for wrongful convictions, and to promote policies that will prevent such tragedies from occurring. The Project also works to promote legislation to loosen Pennsylvania’s draconian post-conviction laws to allow convicted individuals a fair chance of having evidence of their innocence presented in court – including updating our post-conviction DNA access laws.
In courts, the Project provides support, training, and guidance to other lawyers litigating post-conviction claims of innocence. In addition, the Project regularly files friend of the court briefs in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania supporting broader interpretation of our statutes to benefit the wrongly convicted.