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Los Angeles Innocence Project - BJA FY 23 Upholding the Rule of Law and Preventing Wrongful Convictions Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $575,000)

The Los Angeles Innocence Project is a new non-profit legal clinic that is part of a groundbreaking collaboration with Cal State LA’s California Forensic Science Institute’s academic graduate program in criminalistics and forensics. The collaboration focuses on uncovering and challenging faulty or unreliable forensics used to obtain wrongful convictions in criminal cases, with the Project providing highly effective legal representation to indigent incarcerated individuals seeking to prove their innocence. The Los Angeles Innocence Project is comprised of experienced post-conviction attorneys who have a proven track record of success and through this grant proposes to fund three full-time attorneys to build the first of its kind Faulty Forensics Database, obtain forensics-related discovery and trial transcripts, investigate and litigate claims for indigent defendants with claims of actual innocence, and train criminal defense attorneys on how best to challenge the presentation of faulty forensics in court today. The purpose is to remedy wrongful convictions, including past misuse of forensic and other scientific evidence in the courtroom, improve standards for the use of forensic and other scientific evidence in the courtroom, and reform the criminal legal system to prevent future injustice. Project activities include collecting data from incarcerated individuals with claims of actual innocence using a specialized intake form, litigating post-conviction motions to obtain discovery and trial transcripts, retaining and consulting with independent experts in various forensic disciplines to identify unreliable or faulty forensics used to obtain wrongful convictions, and investigating claims of innocence including traveling to meet with clients and witnesses across the country. Expected outcomes include overturning wrongful convictions, including those containing faulty forensics, identifying potentially problematic prosecutors, criminalists, crime laboratories, and forensic disciplines in need of closer scrutiny. Additionally, it is expected to allow for the identification of cases and laboratories where full-scale audits may be warranted. Subrecipient activities include joining forces with the students and faculty at Cal State LA’s California Forensic Science Institute’s graduate program in criminalistics and forensics to review and challenge unreliable forensic evidence used in criminal cases and training the next generation of criminalists. Additional subrecipient activities include retaining exonerated individuals as Los Angeles Innocence Project policy advisors and collaborating with Innocence Projects and legislators across the state of California to discuss needed reforms and provide needed support to legislators working to make critical changes to improve the criminal legal system and rectifying the injustices exonerees endure after returning home.

Date Created: September 28, 2023