The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at Cardozo Law, to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, over 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing—prisoners who served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.
Cardozo clinical students work with prisoners, crime labs, prosecutors, and defense lawyers, and review case histories, including transcripts, medical reports, and appellate briefs. They litigate in trial and appellate courts across the country on complex procedural and constitutional issues that arise when getting access to evidence, testing, and proving innocence. This innovative, year-long clinic has either represented or provided critical assistance these prisoners exonerated through DNA evidence, several of whom were on death row.
The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.