Posts Tagged ‘Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida’

Steppin’ Out 2015 is coming soon!

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 13, 2015 @ 11:04 AM — Comments (1)

Steppin’ Out 2015 is just around the corner, on Thursday, April 16th, at Mission San Luis. The silent auction, as well as the VIP reception for exonerees, sponsors, and award recipients will start at 6 PM, and the dinner and program will run from 7 to 9:30 PM.

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Jennifer Thompson, co-author of the NY Times bestseller Picking Cotton, will be honored with  the Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award, recognizing her significant contribution to advancing the cause of innocence. Jennifer has used her experience as a crime victim involved in a wrongful conviction case to affect positive change in the criminal justice system and has served as a Commissioner on the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Walter McNeil, former police chief, will receive the Innocence Project of Florida Partner in Justice Award, recognizing the non-traditional collaborations he has formed with the innocence community to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future wrongful convictions.

To get an idea of what is in store this year take a look through some of the highlights from 2014’s Steppin’ Out.

Individual tickets are $125, or $100 for public defenders and students, and can be purchased online here. More information about event sponsorships can be found here.  For more information, please call 850-561-6767 or email at

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Celebrating 10 Years of Freeing the Innocent

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 02, 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 or contact Jackie Pugh at 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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Life on the Outside

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 01, 2013 @ 5:37 PM — Comments (1)

After serving seven years in a prison for a crime he did not commit, Ronald Ross walked out into the free world on February 22, 2013. Wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in 2006, Ross spent seven unnecessary years behind bars. Yet his lawyers claim that he has no desire to retaliate against the justice system. Ross would rather focus on regaining his life.

Ross spoke with about his new life on the outside. Ross claims to ABC , “I’m just like a newborn baby, got to take one step at a time.” The lawyers of the Northern California Innocence Project worked diligently on Ross’ case in order to exonerate him from a wrongful conviction. The challenges for Ross may, unfortunately, become more difficult before becoming any easier.

It is difficult to imagine the psychological toll of a wrongful conviction. It was loosely described to me as if one is relocated to a foreign country where the language and the customs are very different. Nothing is remotely the same, therefore the brain must learn to adapt to the foreign environment creating new physical pathway of thought processes. In an exceedingly new environment, one has no choice but to ask for help in order to function. The Innocence Project of Florida employs a social services professional who specifically works with the exonerees to ease the transition from behind bars to life on the outside. These wrongfully convicted individuals spent many years, even decades, in prison.

James Bain, exonerated by the Innocence Project of Florida in 2009 after 35 years of wrongful incarceration, said he was very worried about transitioning from his life in prison to life on the outside but felt a sigh of relief when he found out that IPF would provide him transitioning services. He states that the transition was incredibly difficult but is glad IPF was there for support after his exoneration.

Serving time in prison can feel like being frozen in time. While the world continues to grow and advance, those convicted must remain separate, and thus causing a disconnect between life before and after prison. Inmates may experience similar anxieties and thoughts, however, the experiences of one inmate are never exactly the same as the other. Every life, every case, and every exoneration is highly individualized. The successful assimilation back into society depends greatly on the social and familial support system.

Having a family for support during the entire process has shown to increase the success of the individual. Since the wrongfully convicted individual is not the only one affected, this year Steppin’ Out with The Innocence Project of Florida is paying tribute the family members who lost a loved one for decades to a wrongful conviction. Join James and other exonerees on April 5, 2013, from 6-9 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Miami, Florida. Click here to find out more about Steppin’ Out 2013.

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Preview Steppin’ Out with IPF’s Silent Auction

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 17, 2012 @ 2:16 PM — Comments (0)

Our first annual gala is a little more than one week away, and you can start planning your bids for the silent auction now!

Be sure to check out our silent auction page, which features images and descriptions of the items that will be available at the auction. We’ll be adding to the gallery as items are added, so check back frequently to see all of the wonderful items we’ll have available. And, if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, the time is now!

Innocence Project of Florida,

Press Release: Honoring Holland & Knight at Miami Gala

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 11, 2012 @ 12:31 PM — Comments (1)

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) will host its inaugural awards gala, Steppin’ Out, Friday, April 27th at the Four Seasons Hotel where they will present the first Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award to the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP.

The organization chose Holland & Knight to receive this year’s award “in recognition of their ongoing contributions to the cause of justice.” In 2003 the firm took on the bulk of the pro bono representation of IPF’s first 40 cases to prevent those clients from being time barred by the DNA testing deadline then in effect. Holland & Knight, whose Miami office is one of South Florida’s largest, was also the counsel of record in the Luis Diaz and Chad Heins cases, both of which led to exonerations.

“Holland and Knight played a critical role in getting this project’s mission off the ground,” says Seth Miller, IPF’s Executive Director. “In 2003 we had hundreds of requests from inmates, a two-person staff, a handful of student volunteers, and an arbitrary DNA testing deadline rapidly approaching. Holland & Knight provided considerable assistance when it was most needed. This state’s innocence movement owes them a huge debt of gratitude.”

D’Alemberte, for whom the award is named, practiced law in Miami for several years and represented Dade County in the Florida House of Representatives. He went on to serve as President of the American Bar Association (1991-1992) and President of Florida State University (1994 -2003). D’Alemberte also served as the founding chairman of IPF’s Board of Directors on which he continues to serve.

“The board wanted to honor Sandy in an enduring and meaningful way in consideration of all that he has done and continues to do in furtherance of the cause of justice in Florida, throughout the U.S., and abroad, including the establishment of the Innocence Project of Florida,” said Mark Schlakman, chair of the board of directors.

The Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award will go to Martin J. “Marty” McClain, Esq., the post-conviction attorney who represented Smith, for whom the award is given. Smith, the first Florida DNA exoneree, died of cancer while on Death Row before his exoneration. It was his struggle that in part led to the passage of Florida’s post-conviction DNA testing law and the formation of the Innocence Project of Florida.

“Marty’s work as a post-conviction litigator representing death row inmates has earned him the deserved reputation as a top defender of those in peril of execution. Among his many successes over the past two decades is the bittersweet posthumous exoneration of Frank Lee Smith. We are so pleased to honor Marty in this way,” said Michael Minerva, IFP’s CEO.

Also slated to be honored are 13 men who spent more than 230 years in Florida prisons for crimes they did not commit. It was not until DNA testing proved their innocence that they were exonerated and released. Florida DNA exonerees planning to attend the Miami event include Alan Crotzer, James Bain, Orlando Boquete, Luis Diaz, Derrick Williams, and William Michael “Bill” Dillon, who will perform some of the songs from his recently released CD Black Robes and Lawyers.

The evening will include a VIP reception with the exonerees, a silent auction, a gourmet dinner with open bar, and keynote address by Professor Lawrence C. “Larry” Marshall, Associate Dean of Stanford Law School and Co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Henry M. “Hank” Coxe, Past President of The Florida Bar. Ticket and sponsorship information is available at

The Innocence Project of Florida is a nonprofit legal organization that works to find and free innocent people in Florida’s prisons, helps them rebuild their lives after decades of wrongful imprisonment, and works to reform the criminal justice system so wrongful convictions do not continue to happen. The funds raised from Steppin’ Out will assist the organization’s efforts to fulfill its mission.

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RSVP to Step Out for Justice with IPF

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 11, 2012 @ 12:28 PM — Comments (2)

RSVP today to reserve your spot to step out and support the innocence movement and sponsor fairness in our justice system. The evening will feature a special VIP reception where you’ll get to meet and speak with some of Florida’s exonorees, a magnificent silent auction, dinner with keynote speaker Professor Larry Marshall, an awards ceremony, and more.

Buy your ticket for justice today!

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William Dillon to Perform at IPF’s First Annual Gala

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 28, 2012 @ 1:23 PM — Comments (2)

Can you imagine losing decades of your life to punishment for a crime you did not commit?

Florida’s 13 DNA exonerees don’t have to imagine; they know just how it feels to serve time for crimes that they had nothing to do with. At Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, IPF’s first annual gala, you will get to hear the stories of these amazing men. Amazing, inspiring, and horrifying – the stories that they have to offer are the best proof that our justice system is broken and needs to be fixed.

William “Bill” Dillon is one of Florida’s DNA exonerees, and he will share his stories through song with a performance at this special event. Dillon learned to play guitar while serving 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit and released his first album, Black Robes and Lawyers, in 2011.

Reserve your spot today to step out for justice and hear these inspiring men share their stories.

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March 2012 Video Update: A Personal Invitation

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 21, 2012 @ 11:22 AM — Comments (0)

We hope you will step out for justice. In this video update, Executive Director Seth Miller issues a personal invitation to Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, our celebration and awards dinner on April 27th at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami. Holland and Knight LLP will receive the Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award and Martin McClain will receive the Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award. We will also honor Florida’s DNA exonerees; several will be attending this memorable event. The evening will include a performance by William Michael Dillon, an exoneree and recording artist.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception. Dinner will begin at 7:15 p.m. and the awards program shortly thereafter. The evening will include a silent auction with original artwork and unique opportunities. There is an Event Hotel Room rate at the Four Seasons Hotel of $275 per night. Call Hotel Reservations Department directly at 305-381-3381 and ask for the Innocence Project of Florida rate.

Ticket Options

General Public
VIP Reception, Dinner & Program $200 each
Dinner & Program $150 each

Public Interest Attorneys & Students
VIP Reception, Dinner & Program $150 each
Dinner & Program $100 each

Please RSVP by April 16th.
Tickets will be held at the door.

For additional information, click here.


Larry Marshall to Speak At Innocence Project of Florida’s Gala

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 12, 2012 @ 1:55 PM — Comments (1)

The Innocence Project of Florida is thrilled to have Professor Larry Marshall as the guest speaker at our gala.

Professor Marshall currently serves as the Associate Dean for Clinical Education and David & Stephanie Mills Director of the Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School. He is a nationally renowned advocate for reform of the U.S. criminal justice system and has been widely recognized for his lawyering, activism and teaching. Before joining Stanford’s faculty, Professor Marshall taught at Northwestern University School of Law and was a co-founder and legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

IPF is honored to have such a distinguished member of the innocence movement taking part in our celebration. Get your ticket to come see Professor Larry Marshall and hear our exonerees’ incredible stories today!

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Steppin’ Out with Florida’s Exonorees

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 28, 2012 @ 5:56 PM — Comments (2)

Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida is your opportunity to meet many of Florida’s exonerees who spent two or three decades wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Chat with them one-on-one at the VIP reception. Hear their inspiring stories of hope and perseverance.

You’ll get to know Derrick Williams, Alan Crotzer, Orlando Boquete, James Bain, William Dillon and others.  Learn what life is like after exoneration for them and their families.

William Dillon will perform several songs from his CD including Black Robes & Lawyers.  He wrote all of the songs on the CD during his 27.5 years of wrongful incarceration.

Buy your tickets today and step out for justice for the many others remaining in prison yet completely innocent.

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