Propose A Case
Each spring, Making An Exoneree takes on a small number of wrongful conviction cases around the country.Submit Your Case
Making An Exoneree is an extraordinary and unprecedented course and program. Every spring semester since 2018, a group of highly motivated Georgetown University undergraduate students reinvestigate likely wrongful conviction cases, produce short documentaries that suggest innocence, and create social media campaigns calling for exonerations.
This 5-credit course—formally labeled GOVX 400, Prison Reform Project, but informally known as “Making an Exoneree”—is unique in multiple respects. It is highly selective, with approximately 100 applicants for about 15 spaces, which are reserved for passionate and highly-motivated students. The class does not have readings, papers, or exams. Instead, the students spend an intensive semester as investigative journalists, documentarians, and social justice activists, with the goal of creating a public documentary (in addition to a website and social media campaign) that makes the case for the innocence of a wrongfully convicted person who is currently languishing in prison. Students leave campus regularly and travel to visit their “client” as they reinvestigate the crime and conviction. Their task is to portray the main issues, challenges, injustices, and human stories involved in each case.
Making an Exoneree takes on difficult cases that are often overlooked by other innocence projects. These cases are often decades old without DNA evidence or available appeals. The students’ ultimate goal is to breathe new life into these cases and help bring innocent people home from prison, utilizing every available resource and tailoring their approach to the specific case.
Six individuals who shared their stories with Making an Exoneree have been exonerated or released: Valentino Dixon, Eric Riddick, Keith Washington, Arlando “Tray” Jones III, Kenneth Bond, and most recently Terrel Barros.
Making an Exoneree is a five-credit course in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences taught by Marc Howard and Marty Tankleff. Howard and Tankleff, childhood friends, launched Making an Exoneree based on their own experience working to prove Tankleff’s innocence after he was wrongfully convicted in the murder of his parents when he was 17. Tankleff spent over 17 years in prison before he was ultimately exonerated.
Tankleff went on to become a criminal defense attorney in New York and is Georgetown’s Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professor. Howard is the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative and also a Georgetown professor of government and law. Together, they saw the capacity for passionate undergraduate students to make a difference in the lives of other wrongfully convicted people, and they have each become leading voices for criminal legal reform.
Disclosure: Professor Marc Howard leads or is involved with a range of Georgetown University prison justice projects through the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative, and each year leads a class of Georgetown undergraduate students in work relating to the exoneration of wrongfully incarcerated individuals. Prof. Howard has the potential to benefit financially from interests in documentary and other media projects about prisoner exoneration that involve his class. To guard against apparent or actual bias that could result from Prof. Howard’s involvement in these projects, and in accordance with University policy, Georgetown has imposed conflict management mechanisms that provide appropriate oversight.