NEW YORK— An estimated 10% of all prisoners in the U.S. have been wrongfully convicted. According to a recent report released by the Pew Center on the States, the U.S. correctional population -- those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole -- totaled 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults. This means that up to 730,000 people in the correctional population may have been wrongfully convicted. In the last 3 decades 238 Americans have been exonerated with DNA evidence after spending an average of 12 years incarcerated. The severity of this problem has begun to be recognized in New York and other states. The New York Bar Association earlier this year released their Final Report of the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions. Also in April, Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of New York’s Court of Appeals, said he is creating a permanent task force to examine wrongful convictions and recommend ways to minimize them. In order to raise public awareness of a national problem that has become a national shame, a National Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted is being held simultaneously in many states on June 27th. The New York march will be held in New York City on June 27th starting on the Steps of City Hall from 10:00 to 11:00, to follow with a march to Foley Square Park where there will be speakers and informational materials from 11:00 to 2:00. Speakers at the March will include Jeffrey Deskovic, Richard Aborn, Colleen Eren and representatives from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the ACLU.
Jeffrey Deskovic served 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and is now working to bring about reforms which will help reduce the number of wrongful convictions. Mr. Deskovic’s speech will provide insights into the devastation a wrongful conviction can cause to the innocent and their families as well as the need for systematic reform to help reduce these injustices. Another aspect will be the role that judges play in perpetuating wrongful convictions by putting procedure over innocence, rubber stamp denying appeals, and generally looking for any and every means possible to affirm convictions no matter what the facts are or the quality of the legal arguments which are based upon the fairness of trials.
Richard Aborn is a candidate for Manhattan district attorney. He was a member of the NYS Bar Association Task Force on Wrongful Convictions and a leader in helping pass a new state law calling for expanded use of DNA to fight crime and quickly exonerate the innocent. He has also long pressed for overturning the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, and has been a firm and consistent opponent of the death penalty. Colleen Eren is Organizing Director with New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NYADP) and a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She became involved in the abolitionist movement at the age of 16, after starting a chapter of Amnesty international in her high school. She has served on Amnesty's National Steering Committee for the Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, and has been with NYADP five years. She has taught undergraduate Sociology courses at Hofstra University, Queens College and Hunter College. Please join us at this worthwhile event. More information on the National Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted at www.freedommarchusa.org