"funded by the National Institute for Justice and led by Dr. Jon Gould (author of The Innocence Commission and chairman of the Innocence Commission for Virginia) of American University. Our research seeks to understand how the criminal justice system avoids wrongful convictions by comparing felony cases that ended in an official exoneration with those in which defendants had charges dismissed before trial or were acquitted on the basis of their factual innocence. To date, we have researched over 250 wrongful conviction cases. We are now in the process of collecting dismissals and acquittals and need help reaching our goal of 250 cases.
"Since acquittals and dismissals happen for a number of procedural reasons, we do have a strict set of guidelines for cases to be considered. Foremost, nominated individuals must be demonstratively innocent. For our purposes, innocence can be shown through:
"1) A statement of innocence issued by a prosecutor, judge, elected official (such as a governor), or jury. In the case of a jury, at least one juror believed the defendant to be innocent. A “not guilty” verdict is not sufficient since it just acknowledges reasonable doubt existed.
"2) And , a demonstration that the defendant did not commit the crime through one of the following ways:
a. Forensic evidence illustrating that a crime was not actually committed. For example, a number of 'shaken baby' cases have been overturned since new technology has shown that these infants died from untreated infections and not blunt force trauma.
b. Forensic evidence eliminates the defendant as the perpetrator. For example, DNA from a rape kit does not match the defendant.
c. The true perpetrator comes forward or is apprehended."Additionally, cases should involve a violent felony, have occurred since 1980, and resulted in an acquittal or dismissal.
"Interested parties can nominate a case by going to our website (http://www.american.edu/spa/djls/prevent/index.cfm).
"Finally, Iŉ like to emphasize that in obtaining funding from the National Institute of Justice, the researchers have secured a privacy certificate. Under federal law, nothing told to the research team will ever be released publicly, even if subpoenaed, and the identity of anyone nominating a case will remain confidential at all times. The research team is also bound by human subjects protections from American University offering similar assurances.
"Please let me know if you would be able to help us gather cases. I am more than happy to answer any questions or concerns that you may have and look forward to hearing from you soon."
Katie JaresAcquittals and dismissals in Texas would have to include Anthony Graves, defendants in the Tulia case (whose convictions were overturned on direct appeal), defendants whose cases were dismissed in the Hearne drug stings (portrayed in the feature film, American Violet), exonerated defendants from the Dallas fake-drug stings who were deported instead of prosecuted, the Mexican nationals who just lost their civil suit in Lubbock, and a long list of others. Indeed acquittals and dismissals are much more common than post-conviction exonerations. It shouldn't be too hard for them to come up with such a list.
Preventing Wrongful Convictions Project American University, School of Public Affairs
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
Phone: (202) 885-6421
Fax: (202) 885-6536