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Pennsylvania’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions

Legislators created PA’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions in 2006. The goal of this commission is to explore the causes of wrongful conviction. Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery/Bucks), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, initiated this project. This committee is responsible for reviewing Pennsylvania’s wrongful conviction cases and identifying its causes and possible remedies.

The Committee issued a report in September of 2011 calling for comprehensive updates to our criminal justice system to prevent the tragedy of wrongfully convicting innocent people. You can read the full report here.  Some called the committee’s suggestions “roadblocks to justice … designed solely to benefit criminal defendants.”

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which was not a part of the Advisory Committee process, issued a White Paper addressing the proposals from the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions report and the objections raised by minority dissenters.

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project 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.

Since the Report’s publication, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project has been working directly with law enforcement agencies to encourage the adoption of best practices in eyewitness identification procedures and recording of suspect interrogations.  While we firmly believe that voluntary adoption of these proposals by law enforcement is by far the best avenue for reform, there are other reforms which can only be accomplished through legislation such as compensating the wrongfully convicted and requiring accreditation of forensic science laboratories.