Wednesday, September 21, 2011

UIS Downstate Innocence Project awarded Department of Justice grant for non-DNA cases

The University of Illinois Springfield’s Downstate Innocence Project with the support of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership has been awarded a $249,319 grant to clear downstate Illinois innocence cases, which cannot be resolved through DNA testing.

The United States Department of Justice Wrongful Conviction Wrongful Conviction Review Program grant will provide funding to investigate, locate evidence, and litigate these cases generally on behalf of indigent inmates who often have to serve 12-25 years in prison before their claims are resolved.

Central to the work of the project is a collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law and the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Law School. Students review cases, conduct research, investigation and assist with litigation. The Downstate Innocence Project is a leader throughout the country with regard to the combined educational and clinical program coordinated by UIS through the Center for State Policy and Leadership.

“This grant is particularly important because it recognizes that over 90% of innocence cases cannot be resolved through simple DNA testing, said Larry Golden, director of the UIS Downstate Illinois Innocence Project. “The amount of work that goes into solving such cases is immense and usually takes years to bring to conclusion.”

"We are delighted once again that the Downstate Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is being nationally recognized for the work they do," said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. "We are proud of the combined efforts of the staff, students and community members that work so hard on these cases. This UIS Innocence Project is one of many ways that our university serves our community and our state while at the same time providing students with an outstanding educational experience."

The new grant comes nearly a year after the project was awarded a $687,448 federal grant to investigate cases where DNA evidence is involved. Project leaders say the two grants combined validate the work they are doing.

“This grant epitomizes the good that can be done by linking academic and student opportunities with real world problem solving,” said David Racine, interim executive director of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership. “The grant will allow even more UIS students to participate in and learn from the project’s important work. We plan to build on the grant to obtain even greater support for the students and faculty of the campus.”

For more information contact Larry Golden at 217/553-7171 or email lgold1@uis.edu. More information about the Innocence Project can be found on their website at www.uis.edu/innocenceproject/.

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