According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989, 2,668 men and women have been found innocent of crimes for which they were convicted, having spent a combined 23,950 years in prison.
This equates to thousands of lost years that not only affect those exonerated, but their families, friends, and communities. It is because of those lost years and countless innocent people still behind bars that academics, advocates, and attorneys teamed up to form Innocence Delaware.
Using DNA testing or other irrefutable evidence, the project, housed at Widener University Delaware Law School, will work to identify and then exonerate Delaware inmates who have been wrongfully convicted. Armed with evidence of flawed practices revealed by wrongful convictions, it will also advocate for criminal justice system reforms and adoption of best practices statewide. Through Delaware Law's innocence clinic, specially trained students will screen, investigate and pursue in the courts claims of actual innocence under the supervision of the project's executive director and volunteer lawyers.
With the launch of this project, Delaware joins more than 65 other innocence projects internationally dedicated to securing freedom for people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and eliminating the causes of wrongful convictions.
Joining Innocence Delaware as executive director is Megan Davies. She has extensive experience in post-conviction work, having spent the last eight years in private practice, and being appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a certified criminal trial attorney. Judith Ritter, distinguished professor of law and director of the Taishoff Advocacy, Technology, and Public Service Institute at Widener's Delaware campus, will serve as president of the board of directors.
“I applaud the launch of Innocence Delaware,” said Rod Smolla, Delaware Law School dean. “The mission of Innocence Delaware advances the core foundational principles of our criminal justice system. The Delaware Law School is delighted to be partnering with Innocence Delaware, and we welcome its new Executive Director Megan Davies into our community.”
“I am honored to have been selected to lead Innocence Delaware,” said Davies. “I am grateful for the tremendous support we have received from the community. But there is significant work to be done here. While the population of Delaware has continued to diversify, we have fallen behind other states in addressing the need for responsive criminal justice reform, increasing the potential for wrongful convictions. I hope to see the First State establish itself as a leader in reform – allowing for the reduction of error, protection of the innocent, and prosecution of the actually guilty.”
To learn more about the Innocence Delaware and to make a contribution, go to innocencede.org.