Thursday, April 26, 2012

Illinois Innocence Project expands work to free the wrongfully convicted

When Jonathan Grayson went to the Kane County courthouse on March 6, he wasn’t expecting to walk out a free man. The 30-year-old had spent 10 years in prison for murder, and he still had another 65 years of prison ahead. But Grayson didn’t commit the murder that led to his incarceration, and on March 6, a Kane County judge overturned his conviction.

“When I first shook his hand, he was still in disbelief,” says Steven Schott, a third-year law student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Schott is part of the Illinois Innocence Project, a group of students, professors and attorneys based at the University of Illinois Springfield which works to free from prison people who are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

“He walked into court that day thinking he was going to remain in prison, but he walked out a free man,” Schott says. “He’s starting to get back into society. It’s pretty great.”

Grayson’s exoneration is the fourth for the Illinois Innocence Project, and it marks several changes for the group, now in its 11th year. Formerly known as the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, the group has dropped “Downstate” from its name, signaling its expansion statewide. To facilitate that expansion, the project is joining forces with the state’s three public law schools, which also allows for a larger caseload. Meanwhile, the project has added two full-time lawyers and one part-time lawyer, providing valuable legal guidance to the quickly growing body of students involved in gaining justice for the wrongly convicted.

The Innocence Project was featured in an April 26, 2012, article in the Illinois Times.

Read the article online