A while ago Rotary had a speaker on the Oklahoma Innocence Project, housed at Oklahoma City University. Being a proud graduate, I was intrigued enough to get up really early to be there, and I am so glad I did.
Many people have heard of the concept — a group of lawyers, paralegals and researchers work through the evidence and trial transcripts to find support for a convicted person’s claim that he or she is innocent and therefore should be released from jail.
I’m also sure that you’ve heard of a few high profile situations wherein a man was freed after 15, 20 and even 30 years in jail. It’s hard for me to imagine what that situation is like. There has to be no kind of joy like that one, except for maybe the joy of those who helped the person reclaim their freedom.
Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 for the number of known wrongfully convicted innocent people, but the Innocence Project has a hand in rectifying those wrongs. Oklahoma has had 34 exonerations according to the National Registry of Exonerations, 7 of whom were on death row. This is painstaking laborious work for sure. Even just determining which of the hundreds of requests to work on takes hours of confirming that the person actually is innocent.
You can learn more about the Oklahoma Innocence Project and stories about people whom they have helped from their website at www.okinnocence.com. It’s worth a read, and will hopefully fill you with gratitude for their work, and for your own freedom.