Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2010, $295,559)
The purpose of the Wrongful Conviction Review Program is to provide high quality and efficient representation for potentially wrongfully convicted defendants in post-conviction claims of innocence. This program is funded under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117). Post-conviction innocence claims are likely to include complex challenges to the reliability or accuracy of evidence presented at trial which fall mainly into three categories: eyewitness identification evidence; confession evidence; and forensic evidence. The goals of this initiative are to: provide quality representation to those who may have been wrongfully convicted; alleviate burdens placed on the criminal justice system through costly and prolonged post-conviction litigation; and identify, whenever possible, the actual perpetrator of the crime.
The Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD)in New York City plans to use the FY 2010 Wrongful Conviction Review award towards their Reinvestigation Project. The project will use the latest empirical research on the leading causes of wrongful convictions which are eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, and faulty forensic science. The Reinvestigation Project provides legal representation in cases where there are serious questions about innocence but no dispositive DNA evidence. The Project is a program of the OAD, the Legal Aid Society, and New York City's longest-standing institutional indigent defense office. The Project's unique contribution is its early intervention model, where they screen, reinvestigate, and litigate claims of innocence before direct appeal. With this award, the Project will screen 160 felony convictions to identify those that rested on the types of unreliable evidence that cause wrongful convictions. Where a wrongful conviction is suggested, they will reinvestigate the case and develop a litigation strategy. OAD will hire and train a part-time Investigator, part-time Staff Attorney, and student and attorney volunteers, and expand the Project Director position to full-time. The Project will develop and execute a dissemination plan, and continue to coordinate with other local innocence projects to pass on cases it cannot handle.