Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $573,355)
DNA science has powerfully and conclusively proven that innocent people can and have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit, at a rate between 5% to 8% of all convictions. Given the fact that the rate of incarceration in Hawai‘i is so high that it ranks 20th in the world, there is a grave likelihood that the Hawai‘i criminal justice system has many innocent people serving time for crimes they did not commit. The Hawai‘i criminal justice system is not immune to the common causes to wrongful convictions like junk science and unreliable forensic methodology. However, even convictions in Hawai‘i that were based on DNA testing still have the potential to lead to wrongful convictions as the state’s sole DNA lab is outdated, backlogged, and not certified for the more current and advanced DNA testing methods. The Hawai‘i Innocence Project (HIP) at the William S. Richardson School of Law (WSRSL) and member of the Innocence Network, is the only legal non-profit organization which exists solely to represent the wrongfully convicted. HIP serves Hawai’i inmates with factual claims of innocence pro bono and seeks Project funding in order to conduct application review and investigation of claims on innocence and help with the high costs of seeking DNA testing at independent out of state labs. Additionally, HIP seeks funding to assist with travel costs required to conduct outreach to identify innocence cases and investigate current cases as HIP is located on Oahu and many of our cases occurred on the outer lying islands. HIP Project proposal also seeks to advance Department of Justice priorities of advancing civil rights of the wrongfully convicted, giving the wrongfully convicted pro bono access to justice, support crime victims by identifying the true perpetrator of the crime, protect the public by putting the true perpetrator behind bars, as well as building trust between law enforcement and the community by working cooperatively with prosecutors and the police to exonerate the innocent and identify the true perpetrator of the crime. With the help grant funding for this Project, HIP anticipates being able to exonerate at least two wrongfully convicted prisoners serving lengthy sentences for violent crimes they did not commit.