Monday, November 2, 2015

$754K federal grant seeks to help exonerate wrongfully convicted Latinos

The Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is shifting its focus to exonerating Latino inmates who have been wrongfully convicted in Illinois.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined UIS Chancellor Susan Koch on Friday to announce that the Innocence Project has been awarded a $753,958 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

John Hanlon, executive director of the Innocence Project, said Latinos are more susceptible to wrongful convictions due to barriers involving language, citizenship and status.

The federal grant will allow the Innocence Project to hire two additional bilingual lawyers, Hanlon said.

The organization, which receives help from UIS students, is primarily funded through federal grants but also receives private donations.

"We hope to address these disparities, which often lead to improper convictions and create difficulties for Latino inmates, by working on cases where the individual can be proved innocent through the use of DNA testing," Hanlon said.

In addition, Hanlon said staff at the Innocence Project will continue to use DNA testing to attempt to exonerate other inmates who they believe were wrongfully convicted.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on October 31, 2015.

Read the story online.