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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Exonerated Former Prisoner will Speak at "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" Panel Discussion

James Tillman served 18 years in a Connecticut prison for a rape he didn't commit. But through the efforts of the Innocence Project and DNA evidence, he was exonerated and released from prison last year. The state legislature recently awarded him $5 million as compensatory damages for his ordeal.

Tillman will be among those who will take part in an educational program, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,”  at Quinnipiac School of Law from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

The event will be highlighted by a brief speech from Tillman about how he overcame his adversity. A panel discussion will follow, centering on the Innocence Project's findings and outlining how race, the criminal justice system, public policy and the media intersect at times for some distressing outcomes.

Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, and Jeff Meyer, a professor of law at Quinnipiac, will be a part of the panel moderated by Stan Simpson, a journalism professional in residence in the School of Communications who also works as a columnist at The Hartford Courant and a radio talk show host for WTIC NewsTalk 1080.
         
The Innocence Project, based at Yeshiva University in New York for the past 15 years, has now exonerated more than 200 inmates through DNA evidence. The data from those cases reveal this chilling trend: 60 percent of the men exonerated by the IP are black men wrongfully convicted, like Tillman, of raping white women. In 40 percent of its cases, not only has the IP freed someone wrongfully accused, but it was able to identify the real assailant. The concern now is that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of other cases similar to Tillman's. [Mark Godsey]

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