Until now, Oregon was the only state in the country without a program dedicated to investigating claims of wrongful conviction. The “Oregon Innocence Project” aims to provide a way to help.
Before the late 1990’s, the idea someone could serve time for a crime they didn’t commit was unusual. As DNA evidence became admissible, challenges to wrongful convictions grew.
Aliza Kaplan is a co-founder of the Oregon Innocence Project.
Kaplan: “What we’ve learned from the over 300 DNA exonerations around the country, and the over 1,300 total exonerations, is that we know that people get wrongfully convicted every day because of eyewitness identification, because of false confessions.”
Until now, Oregon prisoners have had nowhere to go to ask for help to prove their innocence. Kaplan, retiring federal public defender Steve Wax and others will begin work this summer. Their organization will review requests from prisoners and investigate claims of innocence. In addition, they will train law students and work on legal reforms.
A launch party for the Project takes place Wednesday evening in Portland. Details about the Oregon Innocence Project are here.