Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $300,000)
The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, along with the Conviction Review Unit for the Broward County State Attorney’s Office/17th Judicial Circuit (BCRU) (subrecipient) seeks $299,420 in funding for a two-year Partners in Justice for Scientific Review Project.
Goals of the Partners in Justice for Scientific Review Project: To perform reviews of cases that employed forensic methods or forensic experts that are now questionable or lack current scientific validity, as well as further support the capacity the BCRU to collaboratively investigate and resolve cases of wrongful convictions in Broward County, Florida not contemplated by the previously awarded BJA grant.
Description of Strategies to Achieve Goals of the Program: A recent exoneration in Florida and similar cases around the country have demonstrated that the use of certain questionable forensic disciplines or certain “experts” in cases have led to hundreds of wrongful convictions. This Partners in Justice for Scientific Review Project between IPF and the BCRU proposes to (1) identify and review classes of cases where now-disputed or debunked forensic methods or discredited forensic experts were employed to identify cases of wrongful convictions and provide funding for necessary expert services; and (2) extend existing collaborative justice work for the surge of uncontemplated requests for case reviews received by the BCRU; (3) solidify the Broward CRU’s ability to efficiently and thoroughly investigate these cases by hiring a full-time assistant state attorney dedicated to the CRU to staff this work; and (4) provide funding for a portion of salary of an IPF attorney to provide high quality legal assistance to defendants in the CRU process and collaborate with the BCRU.
Through this Project, IPF and the BCRU will begin reviewing identified bitemark cases and move to review other disputed forensic disciplines where the risk of wrongful conviction is increased. IPF and the BCRU will continue to collectively perform intake on the surge of Broward County cases whose defendants have recently sought review, perform research and investigation on these cases, and will bring cases to an Independent Review Panel and the elected State Attorney for approval of agreed relief for the wrongfully convicted individuals in those cases. This award will guarantee that IPF and the BCRU can efficiently and thoroughly jointly investigate more cases of wrongful conviction in Broward County, provide those individuals high-quality representation, and assist in achieving their freedom.