DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Convicted of a crime you didn’t commit; the scariest thing

Filmmakers, novelists and songwriters have all written about the experience of an innocent person wrongly accused of a crime. There is a reason so many consumers of pop culture are drawn to this subject-- it resonates with the basic human fear of not being able to control your life and being threatened by forces beyond your control.

For far too many people the experience of being convicted of a crime you did not commit is not just a nightmare you can wake up from or a thriller on television you change change the channel on. As pioneering justice organization (and homebase of DMI Fellow Ezekiel Edwards) The Innocence Project explains:

There have been 208 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through post-conviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.

The common themes that run through these cases -- from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, corrupt scientists, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel -- cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.
* Fifteen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release.
* The average sentence served by DNA exonerees has been 12 years.
* About 70 percent of those exonerated by DNA testing are members of minority groups.
* In over 35 percent of the cases profiled here, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing.
* Exonerations have been won in 31 states and Washington, D.C.

That's why at DMI's next Marketplace of Ideas event on October 29th you'll hear from a District Attorney in Texas who is working to make sure that the wrongfully convicted are exonerated. He has even reformed the procedures for eyewitness identification of criminal suspects, so that innocent people are less likely to be convicted of a crime in the first place.

Our featured speaker is Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, the first African-American District Attorney elected in the state of Texas. Watkins has opened the criminal files of hundreds of local convicts for review, ordered DNA testing for those who may have been wrongfully convicted, and reformed procedures for eyewitnesses identifying criminal suspects. In his brief tenure, he has already assisted with the exonerations of two wrongfully convicted men through his partnership with the Innocence Project of Texas. So, join us on October 29 to learn what similar reforms can be made in New York and across the nation to prevent innocent people from being sent to prison.

Our other expert panelists include:

New York State Lieutenant Governor

Westchester County District Attorney

Co-founder, The Innocence Project

Moderated by
Executive Director, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

The Harvard Club
35 West 44th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036
Space is limited. RSVP and registration are required. Admission is free.

Please RSVP by e-mail to or by phone to 646.274.5700.

For more on criminal justice reform check out DMI Fellow Ezekiel Edwards posts her

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:19 AM, Oct 17, 2007 in Criminal Justice
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