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Our Work

We are determined to end wrongful convictions.

We pursue true justice by freeing innocent people and reforming our system. Our work involves:

  • Providing free legal and investigative services to people who are actually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.
  • Advocating for policy reform to prevent future wrongful convictions.
  • Supporting exonerees, their loved ones, and anyone impacted by the devastating effects of wrongful conviction.

Freeing the Innocent

We help innocent people who have no access to legal services.

We provide free investigative and legal services in cases of factual innocence. Our aim is to discover the truth so innocent people can be where they belong—at home, with their families and friends, living their lives.

The path to exoneration is long, complicated, and expensive.

It takes years to exonerate or free someone. Each case we investigate comes with unique challenges that require dedication and patience. Our team often spends years locating and requesting evidence, seeking out and interviewing new witnesses, and getting old case files and transcripts from former attorneys.

Innocent men and women are living free because of our work.

We have helped free 20 innocent people across the state who collectively served more than 100 years for crimes they did not commit, and we have secured the release of nine more innocent people. Still, we receive more than 500 requests for assistance each year, and that number is growing.

Advocacy and Education

We’re improving the criminal justice system.

Guided by principles rather than specific outcomes, we are committed to holding our justice system accountable. We seek to identify and correct problems that perpetuate wrongful convictions, such as mistaken eyewitness identifications, coercive interrogations that lead to false confessions, and scientifically unsupported techniques such as bite mark evidence and other “junk science.”

Our efforts are reforming laws and policies.

Together with our exonerees, we’ve successfully advocated for policies and practices to identify, prevent, and rectify wrongful convictions in Washington State, including policies to:

  • Improve eyewitness identification procedures.
  • Mandate preservation of crime scene evidence.
  • Promote access to post-conviction DNA testing.
  • Scrutinize jailhouse informants and other incentivized witnesses.
  • Compensate those who are actually innocent for every year lost in prison through Washington’s Wrongly Convicted Persons Act.

Education is critical to ending wrongful convictions.

We serve as a nonpartisan resource for judges, attorneys, the media, and the general public, sharing information about how wrongful convictions have happened and how we have secured freedom for our clients. Our decades of research and partnership with other Innocence Network organizations around the world give us access and insight into the problems within our justice system, and how to fix them.

Students join us in fighting for innocent people.

Through our legal clinic with the University of Washington (UW) School of Law, students investigate cases, interview clients and witnesses, and draft and argue legal motions. Students develop skills in problem-solving, interviewing, fact-investigation, negotiation, and trial preparation.

Learn more about our clinic through the UW School of Law.

Supporting Recovery

After they are freed or exonerated, our clients face significant struggles.

Spending time in prison is incredibly traumatic. Not only have innocent people lost their jobs and financial security, they are stigmatized for serving time in prison. In many cases, after years in prison, exonerees have also lost connection with their families and communities.

We help our exonerated and freed clients rebuild their lives.

We provide social and emotional support and connect exonerees to services and resources so they can get back on their feet and return to the lives they’ve been missing. We also help our freed clients connect with a community of exonerees who can provide a type of support and understanding that no one else can.

We support all who are impacted by wrongful convictions.

Everyone loses when the wrong person is convicted of a crime. The victim of the original crime does not get justice, while the actual perpetrator remains at large, in some cases victimizing others. We connect survivors with organizations dedicated to providing original crime victims and their loved ones support through the trauma of a wrongful conviction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an exoneration?

An exoneration is a case in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.

What is the difference between an exoneree and a freed client?

No matter what, two of the things that all of our exonerees and freed clients have in common are innocence and freedom.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, an exoneree is “a person who was convicted of a crime and later officially declared innocent of that crime, or relieved of all legal consequences of the conviction because evidence of innocence that was not presented at trial required reconsideration of the case.”

Sometimes the justice system presents innocent clients with other options to leave prison and sacrifice their chance to ever be recognized as actually innocent. For example, if a prisoner accepts an Alford plea, they can be released from prison and maintain their innocence by admitting that the evidence the prosecution has would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find the prisoner guilty. Often times freed clients accept these kinds of pleas so they can begin rebuilding their lives in freedom as they continue the legal fight to prove their actual innocence.

How long does it take to exonerate someone?

On average nationally, the innocent spend 14 years in prison before exoneration and release. Washington Innocence Project exonerees spent an average of eight years in prison before exoneration.

What is Washington Innocence Project’s stance on the death penalty?

We know all too well that innocent people go to prison. The Death Penalty Information Center has found that, since the 1970s, more than 165 people were sentenced to death before their exoneration. As long as the death penalty exists—or until we can guarantee that no one is ever wrongfully convicted—innocent people can be executed for crimes they did not commit. Additionally, racial bias in our justice system means that Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people, and are given the death penalty at much higher rates. Therefore, the Washington Innocence Project opposes the death penalty.

Is Washington Innocence Project soft on crime?

No. We believe that people who commit crimes should be brought to justice, and that innocent people should not have to spend time in prison. Every case of wrongful conviction is a case of the true perpetrator escaping justice. In almost half of cases in which DNA evidence exonerated someone, that evidence has led to the actual perpetrator being convicted.

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