Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $300,000)
The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy requests funding to enhance the capacity of the Kentucky Innocence Project (KIP) to identify, assess, and manage post-conviction claims of innocence. Funding will be used to identify, investigate and litigate claims of actual innocence. Funding will increase KIP’s capacity to review post-conviction and appeal claims of innocence, and will also be used to enhance existing partnerships, determine what issues exist that may compromise the rule of law, and inform future efforts to prevent wrongful convictions. When possible KIP will share information regarding the actual perpetrator of crimes.
Funding will allow KIP to hire a full time investigator that will be able to assess the strength of the applicant’s claims and to investigate and develop evidence that will determine whether errors have been made in the criminal justice system. A staff attorney added during the second half of the grant period will litigate meritorious claims. All areas of wrongful conviction will be considered, including (but not limited to) claims based on eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, improper arson investigations and police and government misconduct. Claims relating to faulty forensic science will also be considered. Funding under this grant will utilize experts to fully develop innocence claims and present these claims to the courts. Enhancing the investigative services in KIP will allow for detailed investigations and increase the capacity of KIP to identify when actual innocence exists. The staff attorney will prepare cases and litigate the claims. Experts will allow innocence claims to be properly presented to the courts.
Adding an investigator for the full duration of the grant period and an attorney the second year will build on the current capacity of KIP in determining when claims of innocence exist, and will increase KIP’s capacity to develop the legal strategies to present the claims to prosecutors and the courts. Currently, KIP is seeking DNA testing in cases where claims of wrongful conviction may exist. Litigation in some of these cases is anticipated, and funding under this grant would assist in providing an attorney to litigate these claims, as the current DNA grant only allows for testing of DNA cases and not litigation. KIP is an established innocence organization with many successes in the past two decades and is part of the National Innocence Network. KIP is part of the Kentucky’s statewide public defender office.