ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Original Innocence Project, Freeing the Wrongly Accused From Death Row Since 1948

Updated on April 16, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Freeing the Wrongly Accused in the 20th and 21st Centuries

The court of last resort is the last highest court available to a plaintiff or defendant in the appellate process of legal remedy. In America, this is often the US Supreme Court. In some cases, however, the appellate process is limited by US States and ends at a lower court.

The Court Of Last Resort is a television program and a book authored by attorney and mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. This promotion of the original Innocence Project was promoted via a partnership with Argosy Magazine, for whom Mr. Gardner had written several pieces. The project began in 1`948, freed many of the wrongly accused, and was adopted as field practice by many law classes around America.

An American court room.
An American court room. | Source

"New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said that watching Perry Mason shows influenced her decision to become a prosecutor. Erle Stanley Gardner was a criminal lawyer for 18 years before he started to write...He was not only the author of the iconic Perry Mason character, the lonely justice-seeking attorney; but Gardner was also, in real-life, the founder of the 'Court of Last Resort', a predecessor to the current day 'Innocence Project'."

— Joseph Waters, Musical Composer of "The Passion of Perry Mason"

Freeing the Wrongly Accused For 70 Years

Copies of the Gardner book series are sometimes available at auctions and collectible book sellers. Today's classrooms may tag the associated freedom project with different course names, but it is the program initiated after WWII, with improvements made since the inception of DNA evidence and other new technologies.

Justice Denied Magazine states that the original program died in the 1960s, but this is incorrect. The name died, but the project was taken up by sociology, criminology, and legal classes around the USA. In fact, I learned about the project in criminology class under Simon Dinitz (1926 - 2007), discussed below. I heard about how a more advanced class was working on such a case in the 1970s.

One of the early cases addressed by The Court Of Last Resort was the murder case that became the basis for TV's The Fugitive - the Dr. Sam Sheppard case in Cleveland Ohio. Polygraph tests likely showed false positives in that case and today, these types of tests are inadmissible in court. Other sorts of details result in wrong convictions as well.

Alabama Man Freed After Nearly 30 Years On Death Row (AP, by Kim Chandler; 4-3-2014): Ray Hinton was released from Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham, where he was incarcerated at age 28. Much of his career lifetime is already gone, after a conviction in the 1985 murders of two fast-food restaurant managers. Crime scene bullets were the only evidence. Prosecutors now say that modern forensic methods do not show the fatal bullets were from Hinton's home, or even from the same gun.

The George Zaccho Case From the Court Of Last Resort

Incomplete and Lost History of Innocence Advocacy

A 21st century Hilary Swank film called Conviction (2010) highlights a case of wrongful conviction and its solution by means of the operation of the Innocence Project.

Because of this film, the public is led to believe that the Innocence Project (America and UK, also a BBC television program) was the first program established specifically in order to free the wrongfully convicted. It was not. The first project began in 1948.

The Court Of Last Resort, also a television series as well as a book and a successful ongoing project, was the first. The information in late 20th Century "landmark study" highlighted by some writers as showing that 70% of wrongful convictions are the result of incorrect eyewitness identification was already well known to Erle Stanley Gardner and his colleagues, the first modern criminal scientists of early-to-mid-20th Century.

In the first some subsequent editions of nearly every one of Gardner's mystery books, the attorney highlighted a different criminal scientist - including doctors, coroners, the first CSIs and others - and at least one element of the legal system; including wrongful conviction, professional witnesses, and many others. As a successful attorney working with criminal scientists of the 1920s - 1950s, his efforts helped to lay a foundation for today's science of criminology.

I was honored to study under two of the founders of Criminology in their last years - Walter Reckless and Simon Dinitz. In fact, Dr. Dinitz spoke of mistaken eyewitness accounts until his retirement in 1991, perhaps thereafter in guest lectures.

Source

Members of college and law school classes have worked on freeing Death Row inmates who were wrongly convicted since the 1950s.

Cells in Alcatraz prison.
Cells in Alcatraz prison. | Source

Addition of DNA Evidence

Founded in 1992, the Innocence Project is the first such project to incorporate DNA evidence into its work.

Erle Stanley Gardner would be enormously pleased about this addition of DNA evidence and would promote the project more than any other single advocate would consider. However, his foundational work in freeing the wrongly accused must not be forgotten.

History is rewritten every time important events and entities are overlooked when decades or centuries pass and these events and entities are pushed further and further aside. This is how the Holocaust has been denied by those that would have us believe it did not exist; but, we still have living survivors of that event, along with film footage and written documentation to prove its atrocities.

While there exist lesser amounts of documentation of The Court Of Last Resort than for the Holocaust, and while criminology and law classes may continue their related case work under the name of the Innocence Project or no name at all, the documentation proving that Gardner began the original work is still available.

Every criminology and law class that undertakes a wrongful conviction case should be instructed in the foundation work of The Court Of Last Resort and the foundation and work of the Innocence Project. This should be done just as a judge gives instruction to a jury before sending them to deliberate a verdict in a case.

Criminology and law classes often adopt a Death Row case in the hopes of finding enough evidence to overturn an incorrectly delivered conviction. Occasionally, one of these cases is featured in a local newspaper as the conviction is overturned and the prisoner is freed.

The wrongly convicted on Death Row have hope.
The wrongly convicted on Death Row have hope. | Source

Modern Projects to Free the Wrongly Convicted

Various college criminology and law classes in the United States adopt a Death Row case each year in the hopes of finding enough evidence to overturn an incorrectly delivered conviction.

Occasionally, one of these cases is featured in a local newspaper as the conviction is overturned and the prisoner is freed. There is even a magazine for and about the wrongfully convicted, called Justice Denied.

Suite Noir: The Passion of Perry Mason (Movement 2: The Court of Last Resort) by Joseph Waters

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • u-turn profile image

      Arthur George Rettell jr. ( 

      4 years ago from AZ. STATE

      See.. .

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The original Innocence Project was developed by Erle Stanley Gardner from 1948 - 1958 and televised. In the 1960s, it became a project for each class in many sociology and law classes in America. My criminology classes were involved long before 1992.

    • u-turn profile image

      Arthur George Rettell jr. ( 

      5 years ago from AZ. STATE

      We grill-um fry -um and accept their guilty. Thank god 4 DNA and thank not as it could be used for a setup. It has freed people and proven that a dead fry was innocent. Believe i seen it on TV

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree! We need to uncover cases and precedents like these and discuss them. Thanks!

    • purnimamoh1982 profile image

      purnimamoh1982 

      5 years ago

      It is indeed a great hub with a lot of useful information. I am not very much acquainted with the issues of US judicial system, but it is really necessary that we speak out on such things so that the larger society debates on it.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)