I cannot imagine anything more terrible, more heart-wrenching, more devastating, than sitting behind bars for something you didn’t do! Matt and I got talking about the topic today, because International Wrongful Conviction Day arrives next week.
I’ll be posting a blog with some outrageous facts and figures on Monday, but I just want to talk it through a little bit today.
Those who know me realize that my personal efforts on behalf of a wrongly convicted Michigan prisoner, the late Maurice Carter, led to a new career for me and the formation of this organization. And, Matt got an early taste of it as well, not only because, as a member of my family, he was a personal friend of Maurice. As a young reporter, Matt had an opportunity to cover some major portions of the Carter story, including a personal interview with Rubin Hurricane Carter.
I guess that’s why HFP never lets the focus on wrongful convictions wander too far, even though we’re not lawyers, and even thought HFP is not an Innocence Project.
Our first board of directors contained the names of Keith Findley, co-founder and co-director of the University of Wisconsin Innocence Project; and, Rob Warden, former Executive Director of NWU Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Later, Ken Wyniemko---the second person in Michigan history to be exonerated by DNA testing---served a brief stint on our board.
The Maurice Carter story developed into a book, and then a stage play.
Meanwhile, HFP has collaborated with various lawyers specializing in wrongful conviction cases and continues to support the on-going efforts to free some Michigan prisoners whom we feel are innocent.
In addition, hoping to keep the topic in front of the public, HFP was pleased to bring authors of a best seller, PICKING COTTON, to our community for a public appearance. People are still talking about the powerful message delivered by wrongly convicted inmate Ronald Cotton, and the person who wrongly identified him, Jennifer Thompson.
Our message has been, and continues to be, that it doesn’t just happen to others, it doesn’t just happen to poor people or minorities…it can happen to you! I can give examples of people in business, professional people like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and yes, even cops, who went to prison, and some who even died in prison.
It’s a real problem. A serious problem. And it deserves your attention.
Watch for my blog next Monday.