3,000 Years Away from Home: How Wrongful Convictions Impact Family and Society

Limits of the Law | Events | Speakers | Seminars | Resources

In the past 20 years, DNA exonerations have freed over 240 innocent prisoners. Together, they served over 3,000 years imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. Wrongful convictions have shown that our criminal justice system needs immediate reform in many areas – both to protect the innocent and to strengthen the work of law enforcement and prosecutors.  Important progressive steps, like improving DNA testing access and the routine recording of interrogations need to be sustained and strengthened.

Betty Anne Waters will tell the story of one of these exonerated prisoners, her brother Kenneth Waters, whose wrongful conviction shattered her family. A single mother, Ms. Waters went back to school, eventually completing a law degree, in order to help free her brother. With the help of the Innocence Project, Kenneth Waters was exonerated in 2001.

Maddy deLone, executive director of the Innocence Project, will discuss how DNA testing is used to exonerate prisoners, and what wrongful convictions teach us about our criminal justice system.  She will delve into some of the most egregious causes of wrongful convictions and discuss reforms that can redress common problems, like eyewitness misidentification, improper forensic science, false confessions, government misconduct, false testifying by informants, and bad lawyering.  Despite the widespread acceptance of DNA testing as a powerful and reliable form of forensic evidence, many prisoners still do not have the legal means to secure testing for evidence relevant to their case. Ms. deLone will discuss the limits inherent in our current legal system and how they can be overcome.