The Exoneration Initiative (EXI) partners with Brooklyn Law School to offer the BLS/EXI Innocence Clinic which provides legal assistance to New York state inmates who assert innocence on non-DNA grounds. The clinic follows in the footsteps of the former Second Look Project pioneered by Emeritus Professor William Hellerstein.
EXI Director, Glenn Garber, works pro bono on the project and taps BLS students to assist with cases each semester. In August 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded EXI a substantial two-year grant through its Wrongful Conviction Review Program. This will enable EXI to hire another full-time attorney and provide much needed funds for the group’s investigation’s budget.
Garber, who also teaches the Wrongful Convictions Seminar at the Law School, said, “We feel we’re filling an important need in New York because most cases do not have DNA evidence, so the lion’s share of wrongful convictions occur in cases without DNA, but few lawyers and organizations have the capacity to handle these cases.”
Students screen the more than 2,000 requests from inmates that have been reviewed to date. Each investigation requires interviewing witnesses, reviewing forensic reports, and generating new reports. Government agencies and law enforcement are not always cooperative, which can slow investigations. So far, four cases, requiring thousands of hours and several years have been litigated.
“What we’ve learned over the past 20 years in DNA exoneration is that the system is fallible,” Garber said. “The work we do not only saves lives, but makes the system a better system.”