Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $556,305)
The Rocky Mountain Innocence Center (RMIC), located in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been an Innocence Network affiliate since 2006 and provides services in Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. RMIC is the only nonprofit organization in this region providing pro bono post-conviction innocence investigation and litigation services to those who have been wrongfully convicted. Through the proposed Meeting the demand in Nevada for wrongful conviction review and post-conviction representation, RMIC seeks $556,305 to begin a full review of potential wrongful convictions to establish the primary causes and most effective methodologies to prevent wrongful convictions in Nevada. Funding for this program would allow RMIC to hire a full-time attorney dedicated to Nevada, a paralegal to support the entire team, as well as dedicate time from the RMIC staff to identify cases and gather and process relevant case documents for review.
More than 60% of RMIC’s open cases originate from Nevada, and the lack of research available on wrongful convictions within the state supports the need to raise awareness of the growing causes of wrongful conviction. The need for more lawyers to work on innocence cases in Nevada is significant. Studies estimate that between 4–6% of people incarcerated in the U.S. prisons are actually innocent. There are currently 12,840 individuals incarcerated in Nevada. This means that there are more than 770 potentially innocent people locked away for crimes they did not commit. This project seeks to provide funding necessary for RMIC to review and investigate cases, reveal the causes of wrongful convictions in Nevada, and provide the data and information necessary to create policies to prevent such wrongful convictions in the future.
There has been no concentrated effort to review and litigate post-conviction innocence claims in Nevada. Currently, RMIC is the only innocence organization dedicated to reviewing innocence cases in Nevada, has a full staff of attorneys, and is uniquely situated to complete such a review with the support of the requested grant funds. Grant funding will allow RMIC to address the increasing number of innocence claims in Nevada while identifying major causes of wrongful convictions, which can help prevent wrongful convictions in the future.