Wisconsin's Innocence Project Takes On…

By Lauren Forbes

In 1998 law professors Keith Findley and John Pray founded the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School.   Madison’s Capitol Times reports that since then, with the help of law students, the project has reviewed thousands of cases, helping to free 16 people who were imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit.

Aside from freeing the innocent, Findley, a former public defender, is  working with the state Legislature to improve compensation and services for those freed after spending years, sometimes decades, behind bars. Currently, Wisconsin offers $5,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment with a cap of $25,000. One bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Richard Spanbauer with bipartisan support, would raise that to $15,000 a year with no cap. Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan is preparing another bill that would increase monetary compensation to $50,000 a year, the federal standard, and provide an array of housing, education, workforce development, mental and physical health care and other services.

In an interview with Keith Findley, the Capitol Times delved into the core issues that lead to wrongful convictions and the work they’ve been doing for thirteen years.  Here’s a teaser…

Capitol Times:How much does DNA factor into the cases you take on?

Keith Findley: We don’t rely only on DNA, but DNA is what made the whole innocence movement possible, because before that there was sort of a general sense both in the legal community and in the broader community that while mistakes were inevitable occasionally, they were truly aberrant and anomalous and, as such, of little concern.

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