On Saturday, May 12th, we were honored to have shared the evening with attorney Barry Scheck — co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. As this year’s recipient of the Nassau County Bar Association’s Distinguished Service Medallion, Mr. Scheck was being honored at the NCBA’s Annual Dinner Dance – and we were fortunate to be seated at the head table with him and have the chance to speak with him about a number of today’s most timely topics in criminal law and his work with the Innocence Project. As most know, the Innocence Project is an organization dedicated to “exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice” – and has made tremendous contributions to the criminal justice system since being launched in 1992.
In addition to enjoying Mr. Scheck’s presentation as a speaker at the event, the evening gave us the opportunity for more in-depth discussions about his groundbreaking work. He has helped shape the course of case law across the country in regard to the use of forensic DNA testing – as well as the criminal justice system in general. Mr. Scheck was being presented with the Distinguished Service Medallion in recognition of the work he has done advancing the use of forensic DNA evidence in criminal cases as well as pursuing civil rights claims on behalf of victims.
Mr. Scheck is probably one of the country’s most well-known voices in criminal defense and protecting the rights of the wrongly convicted. Since co-founding the Innocence Project (along with his colleague Peter Neufeld), nearly 300 individuals in the US have been exonerated due to post-conviction DNA testing. Through his vision in creating the Innocence Project, he has paved the way in helping to exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted – and his work has helped, and will continue to help, the many individuals who have been wrongfully accused, and wrongfully convicted, of a crime.
The numbers are actually quite staggering. According to statistics from the Innocence Project, since 1989 there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused. And, of the 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations resulting from the work of the Innocence Project, 17 of these individuals had served time on death row.
We were thrilled to have this opportunity to not only join the NCBA in honoring Barry Scheck at this event, but to have the chance to talk extensively with him about current issues in forensic DNA evidence – and DNA exonerations. As criminal defense attorneys, we remain committed to staying at the very forefront of this important issue – and continue to join Mr. Scheck and his organization in working to protect the rights of all individuals accused of any crime.