UC Hosts First-Ever International Conference of Innocence Projects, A Growing Global Effort

“Sometimes, in prison, you had to force hope…” That’s according to Raymond Towler, University of Cincinnati College of Law’s most recent exoneree, about his time in prison. 

Towler, imprisoned for almost three decades, served the most time of any exonerated individual in Ohio’s history. He, along with exonerees from across the country and around the world, will be a part of the largest gathering of exonerees ever in one place. All told, 100 exonerees from around the world are expected in Cincinnati in early April.

They will come together at the first-ever international innocence network gathering—The 2011 Innocence Network Conference: An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction, April 7-10, 2011. The event is hosted by the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) but will be held at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati.

Unique to this conference is its focus on the global human rights problem of wrongful conviction. “This is the first conference bringing the world together to discuss this issue,” said conference organizer Mark Godsey, the Donald P. and Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law and Director of the Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project, about the at-capacity event. International interest in the conference has been so great that attendee registration is now closed.


The four-day conference is expected to bring over 500 attendees to the city, including scholars, lawyers, and exonerees from around the world for substantive discussions, workshops, and keynote addresses on national and international trends on the issue of wrongful conviction. In addition to sharing information and providing a forum for learning, organizers hope that the event will be a springboard for galvanizing the innocence movement into a unified, international human rights movement. To that end international attendees are expected from at least 20 countries, including Canada, Japan, China, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Chile, England, Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Czech Republic, Singapore and Switzerland.

Key Events at the Conference
“Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction” Art Exhibit.
The conference kicks off with the first-ever art exhibit featuring the work of exonerees and those still imprisoned. Thirty (30) exonerees, including OIP exonerees Raymond Towler (exonerated May 2010) and Clarence Elkins (exonerated December 2005), will be exhibiting artwork, poetry, photos, letters, and other literary works. Students from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) are designing and curating the exhibit. See the multi-media presentation for a preview of the exhibit.

In addition, the exhibit will be showcased in a special edition of the Freedom Center Journal, a joint scholarly publication of the College of Law and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The 200+ page book will be available for purchase at the conference; proceeds from the sale will go to life-after exoneration programs which aid recent exonerees who are readjusting to life outside prison. 
Exhibit Dates: April 7, 2011-July 9, 2011

Opening Ceremony
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders and co-directors of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, will open the event, followed by the introduction of delegate countries and exonerees. Opening Ceremony: Friday, April 8, 2011 @ 8:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Keynote Event by Exonerees from Around the World.  One of the most captivating components of the conference will be the opportunity to hear first-hand from exonerees from the U.S. and around the world. This will be a first-of-its-kind event. Participants include exonerees from Japan (first DNA exoneree), Canada, England (Gerry Conlon, who was portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis in the film “In the Name of the Father”),  Mexico and Nicaragua will share their stories.  Keynote Addresses: Friday, April 8, 2011 @ 3:45 p.m.

Special Spa Event for Female Exonerees. A New Attitude Beauty Studio (www.anewattitudebeautystudio.com located at 3505 Michigan Ave. in Hyde Park) will be donating group pampering spa sessions to eight female exonerees during the conference, giving them the opportunity to meet and bond. In addition, Kurtzman Plastic Surgery will be donating skin treatments and other services. de

“Let Freedom Sing” Musical Concert. The concert will feature the music of exonerees from various innocence projects. This will be the first time exonerees have jammed together. Concert: Saturday, April 9, 2011 @ 6:00 p.m.

International Delegate Tour of DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center). Attendees will have the opportunity to tour DDC's world-renown DNA laboratory and attend a workshop on DNA testing in post-conviction cases. DDC has played a critical role in the work of the OIP, as well as other Innocence Projects across the United Sates, conducting forensic DNA testing and consultation that has resulted thus far in three exonerations. DDC's Assistant Laboratory Director in charge of Forensics, Dr. Julie Heinig, PhD., will conduct the tour and workshop on DNA for delegates, providing valuable insight to the actual processes involved in post-conviction DNA analysis and consultation with IP lawyers and students. The highlight of the tour will be the unveiling of the newly-named gene fragment analyzer instrument, "Hello Truth," inspired by the story of Robert McClendon, the first Innocence Project exoneree whose case was processed by DDC Forensics in 2008. Tour: Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 3 p.m. (Bus will depart the Hilton at 2:30 p.m.) For information about DDC Forensics visit www.forensicdnacenter.com

Cincinnati’s Mayor Mark Malloy will welcome and greet the exonerees during the opening day of the conference. The conference will conclude with general sessions on policy reform and discussions on how the U.S. innocence network can assist other countries looking to develop and/or expand their work.

About The Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law
The Rosenthal Institute for Justice was established at the College of Law thanks to the generosity of Lois and Richard Rosenthal. The primary component of the Rosenthal Institute for Justice is the Ohio Innocence Project, which was founded in 2003. Harnessing the energy and intellect of law students as its driving force, the OIP seeks to identify inmates in Ohio prisons who are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of committing. To date, 10 individuals have been exonerated or released from prison as a result of the work of the OIP. Additionally, the OIP has been a leader in legislative reform. Most recently, their work led to the passage of Ohio’s Senate bill 77, new legislative reforms aimed at curbing wrongful convictions, and Senate Bill 262, an improved post-conviction DNA testing bill.



Additional Contacts

M.B. Reilly | Executive Director, PR | Marketing + Communications

| (513) 556-1824

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