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February/2016
An Update on the Pennsylvania Innocence Project from Legal Director Marissa Bluestine 


Life After Exoneration

Supporters of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project had the gratifying experience of meeting three clients who are now free thanks to their support of our mission. Clients Gene Gilyard, Kenneth Granger and Teri Smallwood spoke at a breakfast on December 4 at the Pyramid Club, sponsored by Merck & Co., Inc., and related their experiences with life after wrongful imprisonment.
 
Gene was still in his teens when he was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed by another man.He spent 16 years in prison before his release in 2013. With the strong support of his family, Gene is now married, working full time, and the father of a beautiful young daughter, Amirah, and his stepson, Najir. He remains surprisingly upbeat despite losing 16 years of his life to a wrongful conviction. 

Executive Director Richard Glazer, Gene Gilyard, Kenneth Granger
& Teri Smallwood

Kenneth was released in 2010 after 28 years in prison. Like Gene, Kenneth was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed by another man. He's now married and has a full-time job. While happy to be employed, he voiced a desire to move to a more demanding position that would allow him to use skills he learned in prison. But he feels his 28 years of incarceration make job advancement difficult. Kenneth admitted that adjusting to life on the outside "is still hard every day."
 
At 42 years, Teri was incarcerated the longest and has only been out of prison since May 2015. Her transition after more than four decades of wrongful incarceration for arson-murder has been difficult, she said. However, the fact that she was able to make a public appearance and speak candidly to a live audience was a testament to her strength and how far she has come in such a short period of time. Poignantly, she described her one regret since being released as her separation from her best friend in prison, the first person with whom she shared the news of her release.

Han Tak Lee is Exonerated!

Board President David Richman, Peter Goldberger
and Han Tak Lee
Han Tak Lee spent 24 years in prison for an arson-murder he didn't commit; indeed, the fire that killed his daughter may not have been arson at all. He is now free, thanks in part to the Project's intervention and his representation by Peter Goldberg
er, a member of the Project's Advisory Board. 

In August 2014, a federal district court granted Han Tak Lee's petition for a new trial and released him from prison after he was able to show that his conviction for the arson-murder of
 his daughter was based on discredited fire science. Mr. Lee's expert witness testified that the evidence showed that the cause of the fire was undetermined.  
However, Mr. Lee had not been fully exonerated because the Commonwealth appealed the district court's decision.  That appeal was unsuccessful and, on January 5, 2016, the District Court issued an order rendering Mr. Lee free of any and all legal consequences resulting from the 1990 convictions. Mr. Lee is now listed in the National Registry of Exonerations.
Why innocent people confess to crimes they didn't commit

As discussed in an article by Meaghan Bixby in Temple Now, the popularity of Making a Murderer has highlighted the issue of false confessions.   Included in the article is a video of Legal Director Marissa Bluestine explaining what seems counter intuitive: that innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they didn't commit. You can view the video at our website.
 

Save the Date! 
Pennsylvania Innocence Project Annual Celebration

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project's Annual Celebration will be
Wednesday, May 11, from
6:00 to 9:00 pm, at WHYY Studios, Independence Mall West, 150 N. 6th
Street. The program will feature Mr. Kenneth Thompson, District Attorney for Brooklyn, New York, recognized nationally for the creation of his office's highly successful Conviction Review Unit (CRU).  The Brooklyn CRU has received high marks in two recent studies by the National Registry of Exonerationat the University of Michigan Law School and the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
 

We look forward to seeing you on May 11!
             Richard Glazer                                                   Marissa Bluestine 
           Executive Director                                                  Legal Director 
Pennsylvania Innocence Project                           Pennsylvania Innocence Project 
                                                   215-204-4255

Pennsylvania Innocence Project | 1719 N. Broad Street | Philadelphia | PA | 19122