In the past year, seven clients were freed or exonerated after a combined 176 years of wrongful conviction. One client became the 21st person exonerated by DNA testing after being wrongfully sentenced to death. Another wrote to us in 1995, and the 24 years that followed is the longest we have litigated a case to exoneration. Each client has their own unique story of tenacity, resilience and bravery to prove their innocence in a system stacked against them.
Justice this year
Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin was 24 years old in 2004 when he entered the home of his neighbors, Carol Williams and her elderly mother Cheryl Bareis, and discovered they had been murdered. Terrified that his presence there would result in deportation back to Honduras, he left and initially told police he didn’t know anything. When he asked to speak to police later that day, he was arrested.
Huwe BurtonNew York
Huwe Burton was 16 years old in 1989 when he returned to his Bronx home and discovered his mother Keziah had been murdered. During a police interrogation two days later, while Huwe was sleep-deprived, traumatized and separated from his father, he confessed under a psychologically coercive interrogation. He immediately recanted, but the trial court refused to admit expert testimony on the unreliable nature of his confession. Huwe was convicted and served 19 years in prison and a decade on parole.
Steven Mark ChaneyTexas
Steven Mark Chaney had nine alibi witnesses at his trial for a 1987 murder but was convicted based on unscientific testimony of forensic dentists “matching” him to a supposed bite mark on the victim. Bite mark analysis has contributed to at least 30 wrongful convictions or indictments and has been rejected by every scientific organization that has considered its use but is still being used in pending criminal cases nationwide.
In 1994, Belynda Goff found her husband Stephen murdered in the living room of the apartment where they lived with their young children. Her husband had confided to family that his life had recently been threatened, and on the night of his murder, Belynda’s neighbors reported hearing banging at the apartment door and observing unknown men with a baseball bat outside the home. None of this testimony was heard at trial.
Stanley Mozee and Dennis Allen, represented by the Innocence Project of Texas, were sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 murder of a Dallas minister despite no physical evidence linking them to the scene. Four informant witnesses — all with pending criminal charges or convictions — falsely implicated them. The trial prosecutor withheld details of benefits exchanged for witness testimony as well as eyewitness evidence indicating both men were innocent. This evidence came to light when the conviction integrity unit of a newly-elected district attorney allowed the Innocence Project to review prosecution files.
When 20-year-old Chris Tapp was initially questioned about the 1996 sexual assault and murder of Angie Dodge, he told police he was innocent. However, after 30 hours of interrogation over the course of weeks, Chris falsely confessed under pressure from coercive interrogation tactics, including the threat of execution, promises of leniency and being prompted with details of the crime scene. No physical evidence connected him to the crime — in fact, DNA testing conducted before trial excluded him from critical crime scene evidence.
Archie Williams was 22 years old in 1982 when he was swept into a law enforcement search for a black man who sexually assaulted a white woman in her home. At 5’4″, Archie was much shorter than the described assailant and had an alibi. However, based on a single eyewitness identification obtained through flawed procedures — the victim was shown his picture in three photo arrays before she identified him — he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.