Once a year, members of the closely-knit community of individuals working with innocence projects across the country gather to celebrate their accomplishments and learn from one another. This year, the conference has expanded to include innocence projects from around the world and UC Law’s Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project is the host. The 2011 Innocence Network Conference, “An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction,” will be held in Cincinnati April 7-10, bringing hundreds of people together to explore this critical issue.
This conference will be the first international conference focusing on the global human rights problem of wrongful conviction. By bringing together selected scholars, lawyers, and exonorees from around the world, it is hoped that the conference will be the springboard for galvanizing the innocence movement into a unified international human rights movement. Indeed, international attendees are expected from many countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, China, England, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, and Switzerland.
The four-day conference kicks off with the opening of the art exhibit “Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction,” which features the artwork, poetry, photos, letters and other literary work of exonorees and those still imprisoned. (The exhibit will be open to the public from April 7 – July 9, 2011.) Students from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) are designing and curating the exhibit. In addition, the exhibit will be showcased in a special edition of the Freedom Center Journal. The 200-page book will be sold at the conference; the proceeds from sale of the book will go to life- after-exoneration programs, which aid recent exonorees who are readjusting to life outside of prison. The programs also work to create a support system for them.
The evening will continue with the screening of a documentary film “Presumed Guilty,” the story of wrongful convictions in Mexico. Thereafter, the conference will include numerous keynote addresses and workshops on issues pertinent to the innocence movement. Topics include Advanced Topics in DNA, False Confessions: How and Why They Happen, International Perspective on Systems of Justice, International Perspectives on Forensic Oversite, and Wrongful Conviction Issues in several countries, and more. Interestingly, international sessions will focus on specific issues related to bringing about justice in various countries, thus giving each country to opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. The exonorees will be able to attend sessions conducted by other exonorees that discuss their various personal experiences, as well as provide insight into life after exoneration.
In addition to the exhibit and accompanying book, this year’s conference will also feature a riverboat dinner cruise on the Ohio River on Friday night and a live concert on Saturday night, entitled “Let Freedom Sing.” That event will feature the music of several exonorees from various innocence projects who want to share their talents with the other conference attendees.
To complete the coverage of the event, the UC Law’s Law Review will publish a symposium issue that will include articles from scholars around the world addressing topics relating to wrongful conviction. These scholars, hailing from geographically and culturally diverse countries, will be presenting their papers at the conference.
Thanks to Mark Godsey, the Daniel P. and Judith L .Carmichael Professor of Law and Director, Ohio Innocence Project, the OIP team, and UC Conference and Event Services, who have been planning for this year’s conference for more than two years.