Here’s An Organization I’d Like To See Lay Off Every Employee Due To Lack Of Clients:

It seems like companies announcing layoffs has become a daily occurrence.

While some companies aren’t that well-known, many are high-profile:  Morgan Stanley, PepsiCo, CNN, DoorDash, Hewlitt-Packard, Amazon…

And this, from December 16: 

But there’s an organization that hasn’t joined the layoff rush hour…

And I wish it would.

I wish the California Innocence Project (CIP) had to lay off everyone due to…

Lack of clients.

According to their website, the California Innocence Project in San Diego…

“…is a law school clinic, founded in 1999 at California Western School of Law, dedicated to freeing the innocent, training law students, and changing laws and policies in the state of California.”

It’s “the innocent” I’m referring to, when I say that I wish the California Innocence Project had to layoff everyone due to lack of clients.

The clients – “the innocent” – are people wrongly convicted and serving time in prison.  Since 1999, says their website, CIP has freed 37 wrongly convicted people:

“Our clients do not have the resources to prove their innocence.  The California Innocence Project provides pro bono services and pays all of the investigation and litigation costs for all of our cases – more than 1,500 cases each year.”

I admire the CIP team.

Now, before you accuse me of being a bleeding-heart liberal who thinks prisons are full of innocent people…

I don’t.

People do bad things, and when someone commits a crime, our system says they should serve time for it.

But I also believe there are innocent people who are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

“Well,” you might ask, “if they’re innocent, how could they be convicted?”

There are plenty of reasons, according to this and other articles…

…and I think it’s worthwhile to consider them:

Mistaken Witness ID
Eyewitness error is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in 72% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable.  Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. 

In case after case, DNA has proven what scientists already know – that eyewitness identification is frequently inaccurate.

False Confession
In about 30% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.  These cases show that confessions are not always prompted by internal knowledge or actual guilt, but are sometimes motivated by external influences including the possibility of a reduced sentence.

False Forensic Evidence
Since the late 1980s, DNA analysis has helped identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent nationwide.  While DNA testing was developed through extensive scientific research at top academic centers, many other forensic techniques – such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis, and shoe print comparisons (pictured) – have never been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. 

Meanwhile, forensics techniques that have been properly validated – such as serology, commonly known as blood typing – are sometimes improperly conducted or inaccurately conveyed in trial testimony.  In some cases, forensic analysts have fabricated results or engaged in other misconduct.

In 18% of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing, an informant testified against the defendant at the original trial.  Often, statements from people with incentives to testify – particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury – are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person.

Official Misconduct
Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes.  But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice – law enforcement officials and prosecutors – lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions.  The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are filled with evidence of negligence, fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments.

While the majority of law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for negligence, misconduct and corruption exists.  Even if one officer of every thousand is dishonest, wrongful convictions will continue to occur.  DNA exonerations have exposed official misconduct at every level and stage of a criminal investigation.

There are more reasons – like inadequate defense.  And how about corrupt judges:

When you think of what can go wrong and turn into a wrongful conviction, it makes me…

Here’s what went wrong for Kimberly Long, one of the California Innocence Project’s clients:

I – fortunately – cannot begin to imagine the horror of being in prison.

Being deliberately deprived of your liberty, your dignity, and sense of self.  Stripped of your rights – to vote, the right to privacy, and some of your First Amendment rights.  Decisions about eating what you want, showering when you want, making a phone call when you want – are no longer your decisions.

All this and worse happened to Kimberly Long.

And she was wrongly convicted.

On April 22, 2021, thanks to the work of the California Innocence Project, the Riverside District Attorney formally dismissed all charges resulting in Kimberly’s full exoneration:

You can read Kim’s story on the California Innocence Project website, along with the stories of the other clients the organization has helped.

And you can read about other Innocence Projects online, and the Innocence Network, and all the other organizations whose mission is to free the wrongly convicted.

And you can join me in hoping that someday…

All their employees will face this kind of lay off…

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