The Spellmans Strike Again: The Innocence Project

Free Schmidt! and the Innocence Project

The cases in The Spellmans Strike Again are fiction, but in many ways they are strikingly similar to actual wrongful convictions and appeals across the United States.

More than 250 people have been exonerated through DNA testing in the United States. Without warning or cause, they were suddenly arrested, taken from their homes and families, and wrongfully imprisoned for years or decades. Over one-third of them were between the ages of 14 and 22 when they were arrested.

These cases take years to overturn—and yet these accused are the lucky ones. Experts estimate that just 5-10% of all criminal cases involve DNA evidence and, even then, the evidence is often lost or destroyed after conviction and can never be used to prove innocence.

Since 1992, the Innocence Project has represented prisoners nationwide who can be proven innocent through DNA testing. At any given time, the Innocence Project is evaluating between 8,000 and 10,000 potential cases, and staff attorneys and Cardozo School of Law students are representing nearly 300 active clients. At the same time, the Innocence Project works to reform the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place.

More than 75% of wrongful convictions overturned with DNA testing involved eyewitness misidentification; in 50% of the cases, forensic science problems played a role. More than 25% of people exonerated with DNA testing confessed or admitted to crimes they did not commit.

DNA exonerations show us how the criminal justice system is failing—and how it can be fixed. At the local, state and federal levels, leaders are increasingly aware of the need to make our system of justice more accurate, fair and reliable. They are adopting policies that are proven to make eyewitness identification, forensic testimony, interrogations, and other evidence more solid.

To learn more and get involved, visit the Innocence Project website.

Read an article in Slate: Reasonable Doubt: Innocence Project Co-Founder Peter Neufeld on Being Wrong

To join the Free Schmidt! campaign visit the FREE SCHMIDT! website for t-shirts and more info.