Celebrating 10 Years of Freeing the Innocent

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 2, 2013 @ 8:03 AM — Comments (0)

  Meet Betty Anne Waters, real life heroine of the movie Conviction, at Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida in Miami on April 5th

TALLAHASSEE, FL (March 28, 2013) — For ten years the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) has fought to free innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, often for decades. On April 5, 2013, at Miami’s Four Seasons Hotel, the statewide organization will celebrate its 10th anniversary with its annual fundraising event, Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida.  This year’s theme is Wrongful Convictions: A Family Matter.

“Wrongful convictions leave a tragic impact on more than the individuals who are sent to prison,” said Seth Miller, IPF’s Executive Director. “They can be devastating for families who lose their loved ones.”

The evening’s special guest, Betty Anne Waters, who inspired the movie Conviction, will receive the Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award, named for Florida’s first DNA exoneree who died on death row 11 months before the State agreed to his testing in 2000. Ms. Waters spent many years obtaining both a college and law degree so she could prove her brother’s innocence. She will be recognized for her inspirational work and continued efforts to correct injustices caused by wrongful convictions.

Also in attendance will be William Michael Dillon, Florida DNA exoneree and recording artist, who will perform several original songs written during the 27.5 years he spent wrongfully imprisoned before his release in 2008.

The public is invited to join the Innocence Project of Florida at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami on April 5, 2013, at 6 p.m. for cocktails, a silent auction, dinner and an opportunity to meet several of the men released through DNA testing.

“Our goal is to celebrate these men who have been exonerated and the families who stood by them,” said David Rothman, Miami attorney and IPF’s board chairman.

For more information about IPF, or to purchase tickets for Steppin’ Out, visit their website at www.floridainnocence.org or contact Jackie Pugh at jpugh@floridainnocence.org You can also pre-bid on several auction items online at IPF’s web site.

About the Innocence Project of Florida

Last year IPF processed more than 1,000 requests for assistance from inmates and their families. They are currently litigating dozens of cases with hundreds more in various stages of review and investigation. Proceeds from Steppin’ Out will provide critical funding for litigation efforts, including staff attorneys, document collection and review, investigation, expert witnesses and DNA testing.

While IPF’s primary goal is to find and free innocent people in Florida’s prisons, the organization has also worked with the state’s legislature to address issues important to the wrongfully convicted. In 2006, IPF successfully advocated to remove a mandatory deadline for filing post-conviction DNA claims.

The 2006 law also extended the right to post-conviction DNA testing to those who had pled guilty, a tacit acknowledgment that some pleas are for reasons having nothing to do with guilt. Many enter pleas to avoid harsher sentences such as life without parole or the death penalty, and some falsely confess due to mental impairment or an inability to withstand lengthy interrogations.

In 2008, IPF’s advocacy helped pass a compensation bill that provides $50,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration, full tuition for a college or university in Florida, expungement of the wrongful criminal record and refund of fines and attorney’s fees, if any, associated with the wrongful conviction. As of today, three individuals have been compensated under the law, including DNA exonerees, James Bain and Luis Diaz.

“The money I received has helped me rebuild my life and move on from my wrongful conviction,” said James Bain, an innocent Florida man who spent 35 years behind bars.

Florida has released 13 men after DNA testing proved their innocence. These men collectively spent 259 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.


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