Many are released after serving decades for wrongful convictions.
A display at the Innocence Project convention of drugs used during an execution. (Photo: Samson Styles)
They say that in America you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but is justice always served?
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to try to get answers about that very question at a local Innocence Project convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Innocence Project is an independent non-profit organization comprised of staff attorneys and clinic students who assist prisoners throughout the nation who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. According to the Innocence Project, since 1989 more than 260 wrongfully convicted Americans have been exonerated using DNA evidence and over half were African-American.
At the conference, more than 100 exonerated men, hundreds of law students and attorneys and countless DNA specialists met to discuss possible solutions to combat this pandemic.
I caught up with Mark Godsey, a professor at the University of Cincinnati Law School who spearheaded the event.
“The wrongfully convicted are disproportionately African-Americans, also sort of poor rural whites, but I would say the biggest category by far are African-Americans,” said Godsey.
The conference was very informative. They had workshops and training on various subjects relating to wrongful convictions and I met a lot of people that were morally committed to doing the right thing in the name of justice. But unfortunately most of them were not of African-American descent…most of the Black people that were there were either exonerated men or their family members.
After taking it all in, I must ask this question: Being that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by wrongful convictions in America, why weren’t there more Black law students and attorneys in attendance?