The Spring 2018 cohort of The Prison Reform Project focused on one of our criminal justice system's most egregious acts of injustice- wrongful convictions. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, in 2017 there were 139 exonerations, for which these individuals had served 1,478 years. Wrongful convictions not only destroy lives and families, but they damage the public's faith in a criminal justice system that values guilty verdicts over truth and justice, while allowing the true perpetrators to remain free to commit other crimes.
Making An Exoneree was taught by PJI Director Marc Howard and his childhood friend, and 2008 Exoneree, Marty Tankleff. Together with 16 undergraduate students, they took on the cases of 4 wrongfully convicted men in the Mid-Atlantic region- Valentino Dixon, Tim Wright, John Moss III, and Kenneth Bond- who have served a combined total of 96 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The students investigated the circumstances of their cases: interviewing eyewitnesses, attorneys, experts, family members, and the incarcerated citizens themselves, in the hopes of proving their innocence.
The coursework culminated in our public "Making An Exoneree" event, which drew over 300 people to experience the student-made documentaries for each case and actually hear the live voices- by phone from prison- of the four potential exonerees, who told the audience with great emotion what this project has meant to them. Our work did not stop at the close of our event, as the overall experience was captured by Strong Island Films, which is creating and producing a 6-part docu-series that should air within the next year. The students have also created websites detailing each client's case and created petitions calling for their exonerations.
Below, you will find more information about each of our 4 cases as well as the full recording of our live event.