The mission of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project is to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit, to prevent innocent people from being prosecuted and convicted, and to help those wrongfully convicted transition to freedom.
In 2008, a group of lawyers founded the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as a non-profit corporation under the leadership of David Richman and David Rudovsky. The Project found its home at Temple University Beasley School of Law because of the Dean, JoAnne Epps’, immense support and enthusiasm.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project opened its doors in April of 2009. That fall, students from Temple Law School and Villanova University School of Law began working with us as interns, helping to screen and evaluate cases. Since then, we added programs with Thomas R. Kline Drexel School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Rutgers University Law School, and Penn State School of Law. In 2016, we added an office in Pittsburgh, housed by Duquesne University Law School, and including interns from the University of Pittsburgh School of law. This office helps to better serve many of our clients incarcerated in Western Pennsylvania and build upon our movement for wrongful conviction reform statewide.
In our thirteen years of work, we have secured or helped to secure the exoneration of twenty-one men and women – Gregory Brown, Daniel Carnevale, Lance Felder, Lewis "Jim" Fogle, Eugene Gilyard, Kenneth Granger, Marshall Hale, Chester Hollman III, James Hugney, Sr., Lorenzo Johnson, Han Tak Lee, John Miller, Robert "Donald" Outlaw, Dontia Patterson, Larry "Trent" Roberts, Donte Rollins, Teri Smallwood, Andrew Swainson, Shaurn Thomas, Crystal Weimer, and Willie Veasy. Additionally, we have helped Rusty Brensinger, Tyrone Jones, Montrell Oliver, and David Valasquez come home on parole while still fighting for their exoneration.
In addition to identifying and litigating cases for the convicted innocent, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project works to improve the criminal justice system to prevent innocent people from being convicted. The Project works to educate all stakeholders in the criminal justice system on the reasons for wrongful convictions, and to promote policies that will prevent such tragedies from occurring. The Project also works to promote legislation to loosen Pennsylvania’s draconian post-conviction laws to allow convicted individuals a fair chance of having evidence of their innocence presented in court – including updating our post-conviction DNA access laws.
In courts, the Project provides support, training, and guidance to other lawyers litigating post-conviction claims of innocence. In addition, the Project regularly files friend of the court briefs in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania supporting broader interpretation of our statutes to benefit the wrongly convicted.
After a client is exonerated, the work we do to support them does not end. Our social worker manages and provides reentry services
to our clients after they leave prison.