Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $300,000)
Breaking New Ground: Finding and Freeing the Wrongfully Convicted in New Hampshire
The New England Innocence Project (NEIP) has made significant advancements over the last several years in identifying and responding to wrongful convictions in Massachusetts. NEIP has successfully investigated and litigated claims of wrongful conviction to achieve exonerations, and it has used the collective knowledge gained through individual litigation to support education of prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and law enforcement. Indeed, NEIP has been a recognized partner with other innocence organizations and prosecutorial conviction integrity units in Massachusetts in addressing wrongful convictions through both individual cases and systemic reform.
Unlike Massachusetts, however, New Hampshire does not have a robust infrastructure dedicated to preventing and correcting wrongful convictions. There is no unit within the New Hampshire Public Defender’s Office for post-conviction claims of innocence. There are no known Conviction Integrity Units within prosecutorial offices in New Hampshire. Given the lack of resources devoted to this issue in New Hampshire, it may be unsurprising that its exoneration numbers lag behind other jurisdictions. There have been only two exonerations in New Hampshire since the National Registry of Exonerations began tracking exonerations in 1989. There have been zero exonerations involving DNA or any other forensic testing. Other than the New England Innocence Project, there is not a single entity focused solely on correcting and preventing wrongful convictions (through either DNA or non-DNA evidence) in New Hampshire.
Given the legal and cultural barriers to success in post-conviction cases in New Hampshire, it is necessary to have experienced, competent, and dedicated attorneys, investigators, and experts pursuing justice on behalf of innocent people in New Hampshire. The New England Innocence Project must have both the infrastructure and capacity to screen, investigate, and litigate wrongful conviction cases in New Hampshire, especially where there are no other entities pursuing these same goals. While critical infrastructure – a screening system, experienced litigation team, and credible claims of innocence from New Hampshire – already exist, NEIP needs to expand its ability to pursue wrongful conviction cases through targeted funding for New Hampshire litigation, including retention of its two New Hampshire lawyers, funding for investigation, various experts, and scientific testing. Therefore, funding is sought for:
Retaining NEIP’s two experienced New Hampshire Staff Attorneys;
Factual investigation to uncover wrongful convictions and identify actual perpetrators;
Experts to identify and educate about the risks of wrongful conviction in individual cases; and
Conduct scientific testing on physical evidence where available.