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The Innocence Project's History

The Cardozo School of Law Innocence Project

The Innocence Project was first established at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1992. Operating as a non-profit legal clinic, the project focuses on using post-conviction DNA testing of evidence in order to prove the innocence of convicted inmates.

Since its inception, through the effort of students and external legal council, the Innocence Project has successfully exonerated 182 convicted individuals. Over the years, numeros projects have developed across the United States and the first Canadian project was implemented at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Osgoode Hall Innocence Project

The Osgoode Innocence Project was established to deal with wrongful convictions within a Canadian context. Unlike the initial project at Cardozo School of Law, Osgoode does not restrict its cases to ones involving post-conviction DNA evidence. The Project presently operates as a credit course where students learn the required legal material while working alongside faculty supervisors and external legal council.

Recent success of the Project includes the case of Romeo Phillion. In 1972, Mr. Phillion was convicted for the murder of fireman Leopold Roy. Over a five-year period, 40 students from the Project participated in investigating Mr. Phillion’s case. Their investigation uncovered testimonies which were never heard in Mr. Phillion’s initial trials. Based on the evidence found, after 31 yrs of incarceration, Mr. Phillion has been let out on bail while the Justice Minister reviews his case.

Another Osgoode success story involves the case of Gary Staples. Mr. Staples was convicted in 1971 for the murder of a cab driver. After 22 months in jail, Mr. Staples was acquitted in light of fresh evidence pointing to police misconduct. The Osgoode Innocence Project was involved in helping Mr. Staples obtain a public apology for prison time wrongfully served.

Other Canadian Initiatives

The Association for the Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) has been involved in helping to establish miscarriages of justice within Canada. Some of the organizations more notable cases include Donald Marshall, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin.