Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS to host Defenders of the Innocent event and awards

WHAT: The Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, will host the 8th annual Defenders of the Innocent event. The program includes two guest speakers and an awards presentation.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Erin’s Pavilion at Southwind Park, 4965 S. 2nd Street, Springfield

DETAILS: Featured speakers Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton are forever connected by a miscarriage of justice. Thompson was a 22-year-old North Carolina college student when she was raped at knifepoint. Through a flawed eyewitness identification process, she unintentionally misidentified Cotton from a police lineup. He insisted he was innocent, but served 11 years behind bars until a DNA test proved his innocence. Two years later, the two met face-to-face and forged an unlikely friendship.

The Project will present Defenders of the Innocent awards to Illinois Representative Scott Drury and Senator Kwame Raoul for their sponsorship of Illinois eyewitness identification reforms.

Angel Gonzalez, the Illinois Innocence Project’s latest exoneree, is also scheduled to appear at the event. For 21 years he fought to prove his innocence, after a 1994 conviction put him in prison for a 55-year sentence. He was convicted based on eyewitness identification and a coerced confession, yet no evidence linked him to the crime. In March 2015, DNA tests conclusively proved he was not one of the two rapists in the case.

Registration for the Defenders of the Innocent event is required. For more information, visit www.uis.edu/innocenceproject/ or call 217/206-6569.

Thompson and Cotton will also speak on Thursday, April 9 at Noon in UIS Brookens Auditorium. That event is part of the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speaker Series. They will be signing copies of their best-selling book, Picking Cotton, following both events.

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