Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, will celebrate its 15th anniversary during the 9th annual Defenders of the Innocent event. Since its founding in 2001, the Project has helped to exonerate nine wrongfully convicted individuals.
WHEN: Saturday, April 30, 2016 from 5 to 10 p.m.
WHERE: President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 701 E. Adams St., Springfield
DETAILS: Featured speakers include Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row inmate in the United States exonerated by DNA evidence and recent Illinois Innocence Project exoneree Teshome Campbell who was released on January 29, 2016, after 18 years of wrongful imprisonment.
Bloodsworth was convicted and sentenced to die in Maryland’s gas chamber for the 1984 rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. In 1992, he pushed to have the evidence against him tested for DNA. Testing proved that evidence from the crime scene did not match Bloodsworth’s DNA profile. He was released from prison on June 28, 1993, and pardoned by Maryland’s governor. He is now a tireless advocate for civil rights and justice.
Campbell has always maintained his innocence for the 1998 Champaign County murder for which he was wrongly convicted, primarily due to the failure of his trial counsel to investigate and interview witnesses. Thanks to the efforts of the Illinois Innocence Project and the law firm Perkins Coie, a federal court reversed Teshome’s convictions. In January, the Champaign County State’s Attorney moved to dismiss all charges.
The Project will present Defender of the Innocent awards to Perkins Coie for its pro bono dedication to freeing Campbell and to the Illinois Times for giving the innocent a voice. The newspaper has published numerous stories about the wrongfully convicted starting with the Project’s first exoneree, Keith Harris, in 2003.
Registration for the Defenders of the Innocent event is required by April 25. For more information or to register, visit www.uis.edu/innocenceproject/ or call 217/206-6569.