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Innocence Project Honored


Contact: Emily Grotta, ESGrotta@urj.org
212.650.4227
Cell: 914.772.7657
Emma Mackinnon,
emackinnon@fenton.com
212.584.5000 ex.327

For Immediate Release 

Reform Movement Bestows Highest Honor on the Innocence Project,
New York-based Program to Free the Wrongfully Convicted

NOV. 7, NEW YORK AND HOUSTON – The Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (IP), which works to free the innocent with DNA testing, will be honored with the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award for Service to the World Community at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention in Houston on November 17. Innocence Project Executive Director Maddy deLone and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston will accept the award on behalf of the IP and its founders Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld.

The Eisendrath Award is named for the former executive director and president of the Union who served the organization from 1943 until his death in 1973. Past recipients of the Eisendrath Award include Shimon Peres, James and Sarah Brady; Anwar Sadat, Marion Wright Edelman, and the New York City rescue personnel who worked tirelessly to save lives in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 at the Cardozo School of Law, by civil rights attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. The IP represents prisoners who could be proven innocent and exonerated through DNA testing and works to identify and redress the causes of wrongful convictions. The groundbreaking nature of the Innocence Project’s work has helped inspire a national network of over 30 other organizations dedicated to freeing the wrongfully convicted.

Since 1989, 163 prisoners—14 from death row—have been released and exonerated due to DNA testing. The IP represented or directly assisted in over half these cases.DNA exonerations have provided scientific proof that the American legal system convicts and sentences innocent people – and that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events.

With 17 DNA exonerations in the state, Texas has long been a focus of the IP’s work. Since 2002, the IP has been focused attention on the on-going scandal at the Houston Police Department crime lab. The exonerations of 4 Texas men—two of whom were IP clients—have proven that state crime labs sent innocent men to prison and are in serious need of reform. And these cases brought about serious policy results, including the passage of the Texas Forensic Science Commission Bill. This legislation establishes a state commission empowered to investigate problems in crime labs. The bill was passed in May, thanks in large part to the leadership of IP board chairman Senator Rodney Ellis(D-Houston) and IP Co-Director, Barry Scheck.

The Union for Reform Judaism convention, November 16-20, will draw more than 4,000 attendees from Reform congregations, who take part in worship opportunities, workshops, and lectures that will help them shape the future of the Reform Movement.

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11/07/05

 
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