New York Law School Presents Symposium on Wrongful Convictions

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New York Law School's Law Review and the West Point Center for the Rule of Law will hold a symposium on wrongful convictions at New York Law School on Friday, November 5, from 8:15 to 5:30 p.m.

One of our generation's greatest social challenges is finding a way to protect innocent people from criminal convictions and often years, decades, or a life of wrongful imprisonment, said West Point Professor Tim Bakken.

The New York Law School Law Review and the West Point Center for the Rule of Law will convene legal experts to discuss ways to reduce the incidence of wrongful convictions at a symposium, “Exonerating the Innocent: Pre-Trial Innocent Procedures,” on Friday, November 5, from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Law School, located at 185 West Broadway.

“One of our generation’s greatest social challenges is finding a way to protect innocent people from criminal convictions and often years, decades, or a life of wrongful imprisonment,” said West Point Professor Tim Bakken, co-organizer of the symposium. “The symposium will offer perspectives on how the American adversarial system could be changed so that the innocent may establish innocence prior to their potential conviction and imprisonment. Conclusive exonerations through DNA testing of forensic evidence—testing that exists in relatively few cases—number in the hundreds, and it has been estimated that the number of innocent persons convicted during a 15-year period might be in the tens of thousands.”

The symposium will address a new approach for reducing the incidence of wrongful convictions: pre-trial innocence procedures and bureaus meant to limit the number of convictions of innocent people, especially the indigent, by allowing defendants to plead “innocent” and establish their innocence prior to or at trial. Panelists will discuss whether or how these procedures could spare innocent defendants from long prison terms in a system where establishing a person’s innocence following conviction is extremely difficult.

“Society also pays a terrible price when our constitutional rights yield no protection for innocent defendants,” said Lewis M. Steel ’63, who co-organized the symposium with Professor Bakken. Steel is Of Counsel at Outten & Golden LLP and has participated as a lead attorney in a series of highly publicized race-related murder trials and appeals, including the Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and John Artis case.

“The New York Law School Law Review is pleased to provide a forum for leading scholars and practitioners to address questions about the fairness and effectiveness of our criminal justice system and explore this bold proposal from a variety of theoretical and practical angles,” Marcey Grigsby ’06, Faculty Publisher of the Law Review, said. “We hope the symposium and its companion law review issue will influence attorneys, judges, scholars, policymakers, law students, the media, and others to think in new ways about how our justice system could more effectively achieve what is perhaps its most important goal: to convict the guilty while exonerating the innocent.”

The symposium will feature three panels: “Theoretical and Empirical Considerations of Pre-Trial Procedures,” “Approaches and Alternatives to Pre-Trial Procedures,” and “Political and Practice Considerations: Statutes and Demonstration Projects,” and a keynote address from The Honorable Theodore T. Jones, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals and Co-Chair of New York’s Justice Task Force.

Panelists include legal scholars and practitioners:

  •     Steven Banks, Attorney in Chief of The Legal Aid Society.
  •     Leon Friedman, Professor of Law at Hofstra University School of Law. He has represented clients in important First Amendment cases dealing with the “Son of Sam” law and represented Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was freed after 19 years of imprisonment.
  •     Peter Neufeld, Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, Co-Founder of the Innocence Project.
  •     Lesley C. Risinger, Seton Hall University School of Law, represented Fernando Bermudez, a wrongfully accused man who was freed after 18 years in prison.
  •     Mike Ware, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. He is the Special Fields Bureau Chief, responsible for the Conviction Integrity Division, which examines possible innocence cases, and recently helped free a wrongly convicted man, Stephen Brodie.

For a full list of panelists, visit http://www.nyls.edu/innocence.

Members of the media may RSVP to LaToya Jordan at latoya(dot)jordan(at)nyls(dot)edu or 212.431.2191. Five CLE credits will be available for $50. For more information about the symposium, visit http://www.nyls.edu/innocence.

About New York Law School
Founded in 1891, New York Law School is an independent law school located in lower Manhattan near the city’s centers of law, government, and finance. New York Law School’s renowned faculty of prolific scholars has built the School’s strength in such areas as constitutional law, civil and human rights, labor and employment law, media and information law, urban legal studies, international and comparative law, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. The School is noted for its nine academic centers: Center on Business Law & Policy, Center on Financial Services Law, Center for International Law, Center for New York City Law, Center for Professional Values and Practice, Center for Real Estate Studies, Diane Abbey Law Center for Children and Families, Institute for Information Law & Policy, and Justice Action Center. New York Law School has more than 13,000 graduates and enrolls some 1,500 students in its full- and part-time J.D. program and its four advanced degree programs in financial services law, real estate, tax, and mental disability law studies. http://www.nyls.edu

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