Law students from around South Florida are expected to attend Friday's Wrongful Convictions event. The lunchtime panel, which will be held in room E352, will explore the ramifications of faulty eye-witness statements, confessions, police corruption and more.
The panelists include Professor Sarah Mourer, director of Miami Law's Capital Defense Project and Miami Innocence Project; Bill Corben, director and producer of Cocaine Cowboys; Steven Drizin, legal director of Northwestern Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions, Keith Findley, co-director of Wisconsin Law's Innocence Project and Robert Schehr, executive director of Northern Arizona Justice Project. The moderator is Craig Trocino, assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel for the Southern Region who is also an Adjunct Professor of Law and co-director of Miami Law's Innocence Project.
Gretchen Cothron, co-student director for the Wrongful Conviction Project student organization, hopes this event will bring more attention to those who are unjustly imprisoned. She cites the Troy Davis case as one such example.
In 1991, Davis was convicted for shooting an off-duty officer in 1989. Later, several witnesses who originally testified against Davis recanted their statements, except for one. Davis later died by lethal injection on Sept. 21, 2011. He was 42 years old.
A report by the national Innocence Project organization states that eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75 percent of convictions overturned through DNA testing.
Cothron explained that in the 1980s, police officers were overwhelmed with drug cases, which she believes also led to unjustified arrests. Today, there are not enough law enforcement officials and public defenders.
"Cops and public defenders are burning the candle at both ends," she said. "The justice system is overburdened."
This could lead to more people being placed behind bars without cause and proper representation.