On September 14, 2016, the Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it has awarded OAD a Wrongful Conviction Review grant. The grant is worth $217,294 over two years, and will support our Reinvestigation Project.
In 2007, OAD created its Reinvestigation Project to identify and reinvestigate cases of possible wrongful conviction. Employing a detailed questionnaire and intake checklist protocol, unique to appellate defender offices, OAD screens every new assigned case for indicia of the tell-tale signs of wrongful conviction, including mistaken identification, false confession, prosecutorial misconduct, jailhouse snitches, and junk science. When a case is selected for reinvestigation, our team acts quickly to obtain all records and information available and to proceed with a strategic reinvestigation and litigation plan.
The Project’s work has resulted in the full exoneration of one OAD client, Latisha Johnson, who was serving a 40-year sentence for a crime she did not commit. In another case, People v. Ricardo Jimenez, the Appellate Division, First Department, recognized actual innocence as a ground for vacating a conviction, and remanded our case for an evidentiary hearing into our claims. In addition, the Project has obtained vacaturs of convictions and new trials for other clients who were wrongfully convicted, and has identified several cases of wrongful conviction that are currently being reinvestigated and litigated.
The Reinvestigation Project, which is led by Director of Reinvestigation Anastasia Heeger, was previously awarded federal grant money in 2010 and 2012, and has now, for a third time, received a two-year grant. We are grateful to the Department of Justice for recognizing the efficacy and success of OAD’s model.
October 4 is Wrongful Conviction Day. OAD will join with the Innocence Project and many others around the country in helping to shine a light on aspects of our criminal justice system that contribute to wrongful convictions.