Students in LA185 (Criminal Law and Procedure) and Wednesday’s Global Citizenship were treated to one fascinating lecture. UW Professor Keith Findley, co-director and co-founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project spoke to student about the program and explained how easy wrongful convictions can occur.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project has three core missions: To investigate and litigate wrongful convictions; to educate law students through supervised work on possible wrongful convictions and to remedy the causes of wrongful convictions through education and collaboration with governmental and criminal justice agencies.
Founded in 1998, Findley explained how the Wisconsin Innocence Project progressed in their work while taking lessons from the wrongly convicted. Professor Findley provided students with countless research findings that showed how easy a wrongful conviction could happen. Students were intrigued by the actual WIP cases that were overturned Professor Findley shared. They included: discovered errors with eyewitnesses, false confession rates resulting from police misconduct, erroneous forensic science, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense counsel and tunnel vision of the suspect on trial.
The most engaging part of the lecture for some students occurred during a video exercise to show how eyewitness testimony is so unreliable. Students were asked to count the number of times a basketball was passed between team members. After given answers, students were shown the video again only to reveal a strange occurrence that missed completely. This revelation was met with shocks and amazement.
Through the WIP and other national and international innocence projects, they were able to create reforms to criminal investigations, trial procedures and police proceedings.
When asked what they thought of the presentation, many students reacted strongly.
Paralegal student, Lynn Moller “It was awesome. I learned a lot and it makes you wonder what’s going on in the world. I’m grateful that there are people, like Professor Findley, out there in the world.”
“It was a true eye opener.” said Criminal Justice student, Eric Pizer