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In Praise Of The Guilty Project: A Criminal Defense Lawyer’S Growing Anxiety About Innocence Projects

November 07, 2013

There is nothing more compelling than a story about an innocent person wrongly
convicted and ultimately vindicated. An ordinary citizen is caught up in the criminal justice
system through circumstances beyond his or her control, spends many years in prison, and then
one day, with the assistance of a dedicated lawyer, is freed. Like many people, I am drawn to such
stories. I have even told one myself.1

This is the rare crime story with a happy ending. The vindicated person emerges from
prison and falls into the loving arms of family and friends. The lawyer is embraced as well. The
front page of the local newspaper carries a photograph of the celebration.2
Sometimes even the
victim is pleased.3

Often, when DNA is behind a vindication, not only is the innocent person exonerated but
the true perpetrator is identified