Our work consists of providing support to innocent people who have been unjustly imprisoned and their families. We also have fundraising initiatives to raise money for specific projects, such as retaining an attorney for a prisoner who is ready to take their case back into court.
You May Ask, "Aren't all people in prison guilty?"
The answer to this question is no. There are many avenues by which an innocent person can find him/her self in prison for the long term. These include unreliable eyewitness testimony, police corruption, and the misuse of prison informants. Statistics show that as many as 10% of the prison population may be innocent. Since the advent of DNA evidence, there have been 263 DNA exoneration, and the number continues to grow.
A One-Woman Innocence Movement - Claudia Whitman
One of the exonerees cleared this fall by the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit - Darrell Siggers - was a client of Claudia Whitman - a one woman innocence movement. Claudia, an artist based in Colorado, had already been a full-time volunteer for Equal Justice USA for many years when, in 2000, she authored a report for them entitled Reasonable Doubts: Is the US Executing Innocent People? The report focused the cases of 16 people who had been executed despite compelling innocence claims. Her report garnered quite a bit of attention, which prompted Jeffrey Deskovic to ask for her help in his case. After three years, she had collected enough information to convince the New York State Defender’s Association to take a new look at his case. Ultimately, with the help of the Innocence Project, Deskovic was exonerated in 2006 of a murder he’d falsely confessed to at the age of 16.
Since Deskovic’s exoneration, Claudia has helped dozens of incarcerated folks directly. “Once your name gets out there, you get letters asking for help almost every day,” she says. Four more of her “clients” – used loosely, since Claudia accepts no compensation – were exonerated in Michigan; two of whom she brought to the attention of the Michigan Innocence Clinic after doing her own work on the case (Desmond Ricks, Marwin McHenry), one of whom she hired a lawyer for (Bernard Young), and one who was handled by the newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit of Wayne County (Darrell Siggers).
Claudia does more than help the innocent in prison. She has also contributed much to the Registry, including helping Maurice and Ken piece together the chronology of the cases she worked on, and pointing us to other cases that are working their way through the innocence pipeline. She is dedicated to righting wrongs and fighting injustices, and is an excellent example of a reality in innocence work: no exoneration happens in a vacuum. It usually takes a village, but sometimes that village only has one resident, and that is Claudia.
Taken from Fall at the Registry, November 2018
After 34 years behind bars, man gets new trial in Detroit
August 13, 2018:
Darrel Siggers contacted Claudia Whitman maybe 6 or 7 years ago and she looked at his case and suggested that he get in contact with David Townshend, the ballistics expert with whom she worked on Desmond Ricks’ case. He did and a couple of years later he sent her a thank you note, and said he had hired Mr. Townshend. He sent her a copy of the affidavit Mr. Townshend did for him after going over everything. Claudia Whitman stayed minimally in contact with him. Then, when the Conviction Integrity Unit started, she wrote him and suggested he apply. He was in the process and, since then, she was able to help him with various things he needed; among them funding for another ballistics expert and contact with his new attorney, with whom she had worked on other cases. He had excellent representation through the State Appellate Defender’s office but, once his conviction was vacated, he had needed a new lawyer. NCCAN put him in touch with, and paid for, a second ballistics expert, Mr. Balash.
Prosecutors agreed to toss his convictions because of issues with the case.
For more information, click here.
Desmond Ricks Exonerated of Murder After Falsified Evidence Exposed
Imagine receiving your sentence and spending 25 years in prison for a crime you did not commit. Desmond Ricks doesn't have to imagine that nightmare. He lived it.
It was a blustery afternoon in March 1992 in Detroit. Desmond Ricks had just become the proud father of a baby girl and was spending the afternoon with his best pal Gerry Bennett.
The murder investigation was carried out at the Detroit Police Department's 12th Precinct, but the investigation took a turn for the worse, and some say it wasn't because of negligence or incompetence, but pure evil.
Right now, in prisons all over America, there are convicted murderers who swear they are innocent. Sadly, we know some of them are telling the truth. Nobody knows that better than Michigan man Desmond Ricks.
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