Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS awarded $249,999 federal grant to help wrongfully convicted

The Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been awarded a $249,999 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate credible claims of innocence and remedy wrongful convictions.

The grant will allow legal and student staff to continue working on potential cases where individuals are innocent and have been convicted of serious crimes.

"We would like to thank the Department of Justice for their continued support of the Illinois Innocence Project," said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch.  "The Project not only benefits the wrongfully convicted, but also UIS students who gain valuable experience by working on real life cases."

Since it's founding in 2001, the Illinois Innocence Project has assisted in the release of six people who were wrongfully convicted.  They provide their services at no cost, in conjunction with the inmate's private attorney.

"Cases where DNA is not available to exonerate an individual make up for 90% of those wrongfully convicted," said Larry Golden, founding director of the Illinois Innocence Project.  "This grant will help us bring closure to existing cases and to expand our efforts and look at other cases."

Wrongful Conviction Grant funding has allowed the Illinois Innocence Project to evaluate and investigate a broad range of non-DNA cases from arson and shaken baby syndrome to murder, where there is a credible claim of actual innocence.

"Today's funding is an important investment in the Illinois justice system," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in announcing the grant.  "These initiatives will help promote the fair and cost-effective administration of justice, help justice agencies quickly analyze evidence and solve crimes, and will help provide vital assistance and legal representation to those who have been the victims of crimes."

This is the second Wrongful Conviction Grant awarded to the Illinois Innocence Project by the Department of Justice.  The Project previously received a grant for $249,000 in 2011.

For more information, contact Larry Golden, founding director of the Illinois Innocence Project, at lgold1@uis.edu.

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