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Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Grisham and Scott Turow Help Launch Mississippi Innocence Project

Two award-winning writers are teaming up to raise money for the newly formed Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

The law school announced today (Friday) that John Grisham and Scott Turow will headline a fundraising dinner Oct. 22 in Jackson to support the project, which recently began operation.

Grisham, who graduated from the UM law school in 1981, is the author of numerous novels and other books, including his most recent, "The Innocent Man," profiling a man wrongfully convicted and freed years later with the help of several attorneys. Turow, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School, also has authored numerous books, including "Presumed Innocent" and "Ultimate Punishment."

Both authors have supported similar projects in law schools across the country. However, the upcoming dinner marks the first time the two have jointly raised money for such a cause. Announced this past spring, the Mississippi Innocence Project was established with initial funding by Grisham and Columbus attorney Wilbur Colom, a graduate of Antioch Law School.

Tucker Carrington, a former visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, has been hired as the project's full-time director. Carrington said that the program is "committed to providing the highest quality legal representation to its clients: state prisoners serving significant periods of incarceration who have cognizable claims of wrongful conviction."

Many but not all of the cases can be evaluated by examining DNA evidence, said Ron Rychlak, UM law professor and associate dean for academic affairs.

"The idea is that some prisoners who have been in prison a long time were convicted before DNA evidence was understood or utilized," he said. "These cases are resolved and put away as closed cases. There are no government attorneys available to these convicts, and most cannot afford to hire private attorneys, so this is really their last chance of proving innocence." [Mark Godsey]

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