Together, the two grants total more than $1 million for the program.
The most recent grant, a part of the Postconviction DNA Testing Assistance Program sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, awards $778,329 to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance to disburse to the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The previous grant, awarded in August, provides $249,901 through the Bureau of Justice Assistance Wrongful Conviction Review Program.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project is a legal clinic at the Law School’s Frank J. Remington Center that screens applications, investigates and advocates on behalf of wrongfully convicted clients. The new funding will allow the program to continue and expand its work advocating for wrongly convicted individuals in cases where both new DNA evidence and other non-DNA evidence supports the convicted individual’s claim of actual innocence.
“This money reflects both the Department of Justice’s commitment to determining the accuracy of criminal law outcomes and its trust in the Wisconsin Innocence Project’s effectiveness as a program,” says Keith Findley, co-director of the project.
The new funding also allows the project to expand by placing a new Wisconsin Innocence Project attorney in the state public defender’s office to help public defender staff attorneys screen cases for potential new sources of DNA evidence that can be used to prove innocence early in the litigation process.
According to Findley, the new collaboration with the state public defender’s office, in particular, represents an innovative new approach to using DNA and the lessons from the innocence movement to prevent or catch wrongful convictions sooner, rather than later.