Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Illinois Innocence Project honored by Decatur NAACP

Charles Palmer has thanked members of the Illinois Innocence Project hundreds of times for coming up with the DNA evidence that exonerated him from the murder he'd spent 16½ years in prison for.

On Saturday night, Palmer was present at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center to see the Decatur community thank the Illinois Innocence Project, which became the first entity outside Decatur to win the Joe Slaw Civil Rights Award, given annually by the Decatur Branch of the NAACP.

Illinois Innocence Project Executive Director John Hanlon called Palmer and his wife Deborah Palmer to the podium as he accepted the award, but Palmer said all the credit should go to the Innocence Project staff, whom he hugged individually before leaving.

"I'm glad they're finally getting the recognition they deserve," Palmer said. "They're out there affecting people's lives for the better. They said they got this award because of me, but it's not because of me, it's because of the fight they put up for justice.

"Just to be a part of seeing them get honored, and being the first from outside of Decatur to win the award, that meant a lot to me."

The Decatur NAACP has been awarding the Slaw award for more than 30 years. Jeanelle Norman, NAACP Decatur Branch president, said it took a special circumstance to give the awards to someone outside Decatur.

"Their work gave us hope and justice, and it moved the Decatur community one giant step forward in criminal justice," Norman said. "The NAACP believes the service of the Illinois Innocence Project was of such magnitude."

Based out of the University of Illinois-Springfield, the Illinois Innocence Project's goal is to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted.

The story was reported by the Decatur Herald & Review on May 27, 2017.

Read the story online.