The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which works to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit and to prevent innocent people from being convicted, is celebrating its fourth anniversary with a “Voices of Innocents” dinner tonight.
The project’s staff of only five, which is fortified by hundreds of volunteer lawyers and students, has fielded 8,000 requests for help from the state’s 50,000 inmates. Even though legal proceedings can stretch on for years, they have already exonerated one man, Kenneth Granger, and are in the advanced stages of 13 other cases.
Richard Glazer, the executive director of The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, said the exoneration process in Pennsylvania is longer than necessary due to strident opposition from district attorneys in Pennsylvania.
“The Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney has not been as open to the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as district attorneys in other areas have been. They fight us on every DNA request,” he said.
Glazer contrasts that attitude with the district attorneys in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Dallas that have opened up conviction integrity units within their own offices to review old cases. Locally, he notes that the Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney is “at least open to considering their ideas.”
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is pushing the Legislature to pass laws that would allow a social scientist to discuss the problems with cross-racial identifications and to preserve evidence preservation.
“Evidence, such as rape kits and blood, is currently kept randomly. Our investigators find them in court, medical examiners, or DA’s files,” said Glazer.