I had the great privilege to meet Michael Morton at last year's Innocence Network Conference. Michael spent nearly 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. The prosecutorial misconduct in Michael's case was so flagrant and destructive that sweeping legislation was enacted in Texas, where the conviction occured.

I had the great privilege to meet Michael Morton at last year’s Innocence Network Conference. Michael spent nearly 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. The prosecutorial misconduct in Michael’s case was so flagrant and destructive that sweeping legislation was enacted in Texas, where the conviction occured.

When great minds get together good things happen.

This week innocence organizations from around the world are converging upon Memphis, Tennessee for the annual Innocence Network Conference.  As should be said in the #Innocence world, “when great minds, passionate advocates, determined attorneys, resilient families, and indefatigable exonerees get together…. amazing things happen!”  This is the true face of criminal justice reform.

We all know that the system will not willingly concede defeat, the system will not easily admit wrongdoing… thus advocates are needed to work tirelessly on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.

California Innocence Project attorneys Alissa Bjerkhoel, and Mike Semanchik with Ray Krone at the Innocence Conference 2018. Ray was twice put on death row and nearly executed before becoming the 100th death row exoneree. Chris Plourd (now a Judge) worked to exonerate him. Ray founded Witness to Innocence.

California Innocence Project attorneys Alissa Bjerkhoel, and Mike Semanchik with Ray Krone at this year’s Innocence Conference. Ray was twice put on death row and nearly executed before becoming the 100th death row exoneree. Chris Plourd (now a Judge) worked to exonerate him. Ray founded Witness to Innocence.

Fighting wrongful convictions is a task that occurs locally, county by county, courtroom by courtroom.  Each jurisdiction is different, each unique – though sharing many elements with their counterparts.  It’s very easy for an innocence organization to feel isolated and all alone, battling out an inmate’s wrongful conviction against obstinate prosecutors before complacent judges.  The challenges that the Denver Innocence Project faces, for example, are sometimes quite different from those that the California Innocence Project might encounter, different hurdles, different standards and so forth.  The Innocence Network Conference gives all of these organizations an opportunity to get together and compare notes, share tips and skills learned from one jurisdiction, enabling a new application in other jurisdictions.

Representatives from just about every innocence organization across the country and internationally are present for the weekend-long, criminal justice reform extravaganza.  In addition, some of the best minds and biggest movers and doers in the wrongful conviction community are there, conferencing with like minded advocates, attorneys, activists, and perhaps most inspirational of all, over one hundred exonerees.  This conference is an excellent opportunity for the best of the best in Innocence work to come together and share notes, share experiences from the past year, and educate each other – enabling conference attendants to leave the weekend refreshed, invigorated, and even more up to date on the state of wrongful conviction work in this country.

I had the great privilege of attending last year’s conference, which was held in San Diego, California – hosted by the California Innocence Project.  The experience was one that I’ll never forget.  I was able to meet and talk with many exonerees.  Hearing their stories and looking them in the eye, a powerful reminder of just how real and how crucial innocence work is.  I was able to meet Michael Morton, for example, a hero of mine, and it’s a privilege I’ll not soon forget – even as his own story of twenty plus years behind bars continues to be a rallying cry for criminal justice reform across this country.  I was not able to attend this year, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to be part of next year’s conference.  If you ever get the opportunity to attend, even just one day, I highly recommend it.  It’s the stories of exoneration that will continue to not only inspire the work of freedom fighters, but will sound the beacon all the clearer, calling for substantive criminal justice reform.

Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida kicks off the conference on opening day. Seth also teaches Post-conviction Remedies and Wrongful Convictions as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law.

THE Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida kicks off the conference on opening day. Seth also teaches Post-conviction Remedies and Wrongful Convictions as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law.

Here’s wishing this year’s conference goers an extraordinary experience – may it be uplifting, educational, memorable, and may it inspire this year’s wrongful conviction work to new heights.  There are still far too many innocent people languishing behind bars for crimes they did not commit.  We all know that the system will not willingly concede defeat, the system will not easily admit wrongdoing… thus advocates are needed to work tirelessly on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.

If you would like to keep abreast of goings on follow the hashtag #INConf2018 on twitter and Instagram.

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