The Innocence Project
The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992. The project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. As a clinic, law students handle case work while supervised by a team of attorneys and clinic staff.
Most of our clients are poor, forgotten, and have used up all legal avenues for relief. The hope they all have is that biological evidence from their cases still exists and can be subjected to DNA testing. All Innocence Project clients go through an extensive screening process to determine whether or not DNA testing of evidence could prove their claims of innocence. Thousands currently await our evaluation of their cases.
DNA testing has been a major factor in changing the criminal justice system. It has provided scientific proof that our system convicts and sentences innocent people — and that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events. Most importantly, DNA testing has opened a window into wrongful convictions so that we may study the causes and propose remedies that may minimize the chances that more innocent people are convicted.
As forerunners in the field of wrongful convictions, the Innocence Project has grown to become much more than the “court of last resort” for inmates who have exhausted their appeals and their means. We are a founding member of The Innocence Network, a group of law schools, journalism schools and public defender offices across the country that assists inmates trying to prove their innocence whether or not the cases involve biological evidence which can be subjected to DNA testing. We consult with legislators and law enforcement officials on the state, local, and federal level, conduct research and training, produce scholarship and propose a wide range of remedies to prevent wrongful convictions while continuing our work to free innocent inmates through the use of post-conviction DNA testing.
We hope that this site will raise awareness and concern about the failings of our criminal justice system. It is a facet of our society that eventually touches all of its citizens. The prospect of innocents languishing in prison or, worse, being put to death for crimes that they did not commit, should be intolerable to every American, regardless of race, politics, sex, origin, or creed.
Recent Grantee News
When DNA testing first emerged as a viable forensic tool in the early ’90s, Neufeld and colleague Barry Scheck, both veteran defense attorneys and professors at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, saw it as an opportunity to address the problem of wrongful conviction. In 1992 they launched the Innocence Project at Cardozo, as a legal clinic that put law students to work pursuing justice for the falsely imprisoned.