Saturday, July 4, 2009

When Your Freedom Is Snatched

The 4th of July is a time we set aside to celebrate our country's Declaration of Independence - a time when we celebrate our freedom.

As we travel this weekend, spend time with friends and family, honor those who defend our freedom, or just simply enjoy hanging around the house, I wanted to take a few moments to share some information on my favorite charity - The Innocence Project. This organization fights for those whose freedom was snatched away from them by being convicted of crimes they didn't commit.

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 240 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row.

In 2009 alone, they have exonerated 13 people who spent a total of 261 years behind bars for crimes they didn't commit. The shortest exoneree serving 6 years and the longest being 30. Can you imagine having your freedom snatched from you - even for only one day?

The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. The Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states; since 2000, there have been 171 exonerations.

• The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. The total number of years served is approximately 2,982.

• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26.

• The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 104 of the DNA exoneration cases.

Races of the 240 exonerees:
142 African Americans
70 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
5 whose race is unknown

I make a monthly donation to this organization and I encourage you, if you don't already do it, to support a charity or organization that works on programs and projects that are dear to your heart. Even through these challenging economic times, we should always strive to help those who are in need.

Here are the stories of some of people who have been set free by The Innocence Project in 2009:

Wrongly Convicted 1990
Convicted 1990
Debra Shelden
Convicted 1989
Convicted 1990
Convicted 2003
Convicted 1996
Convicted 1984
Convicted 1989

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