Brian Banks was in high school and on his way to accept a football scholarship from USC when his dreams were dashed as he was falsely convicted of kidnapping and raping a classmate. Banks served more than five years in prison and another five years monitored as a registered sex offender. In 2011, his accuser was recorded admitting to fabricating the charges. With the help of the California Innocence Project, Banks successfully cleared his name, regained his reputation, and earned tryouts with several NFL football teams before signing with the Atlanta Falcons. Today, Brian Banks is an activist working to prevent wrongful convictions, a nationally-recognized motivational speaker, life coach, and the subject of a major feature film currently in development.
Scott Budnick is the Founder and President of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), which provides a support network for formerly incarcerated men and women and advocates for fairer criminal justice policies. He grew up in Atlanta, GA and graduated from Emory University. Formerly the Executive Vice President of Todd Phillips’ Green Hat Films, Scott executive produced many successful comedies, including the highest grossing rated-R comedies in history, the Hangover series. Outside of film, Scott is a fierce champion for young adults in need. He is a teacher and serves on the board for InsideOUT Writers, an organization that aims to reduce juvenile recidivism through creative writing and by providing a range of services for of currently and formerly incarcerated youth. For his work with youth in the criminal justice system, Scott was named California’s Volunteer of the Year by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. Scott currently sits on the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) and was selected to serve as a Board Member of President Obama’s newly created foundation, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
Franky Carrillo was raised in Lynwood, California, a small suburb of Los Angeles. At 16, he was charged with a murder he did not commit. Franky was tried as an adult and found guilty, despite his steadfast assertion that he was innocent. He was sentenced to live out the remainder of his life in prison. During his incarceration, Franky never lost hope in himself, the judicial system or his faith. Empowered by these personal convictions, he worked to prove his innocence. Franky’s efforts finally came to fruition when he was exonerated on March 16, 2011. After a long period of facing the dark realities of injustice, he re-emerged as a champion of equality and justice. In 2016, Franky graduated from Loyola Marymount University. He is now married and the proud father of two sons.
Denise Foderaro is a longtime advocate for justice and a researcher for the Registry. She is a trustee of the Frank and Denise Quattrone Foundation, which supports social justice organizations and research on wrongful convictions. A University of Pennsylvania alumna, she played a central role in the creation of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, which opened in 2013. Foderaro is the recipient, among other honors, of leadership awards from the Northern California Innocence Project and Death Penalty Focus, and the 2013 Hero of Justice Award from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. She attributes her passion and persistence to her training as an occupational therapist and her experience as the wife of an innocent, wrongfully convicted defendant who was completely cleared after a successful appeal.
Brandon L. Garrett is the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law. His recent teaching and research has focused on criminal procedure, DNA exonerations, habeas corpus, scientific evidence, organizational prosecutions, and constitutional law. His recent publications include a federal habeas corpus casebook and
Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong (Harvard University Press). His newest book, entitled
Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations, was published in 2014. Garrett attended Columbia Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Columbia Law Review and a Kent Scholar. After graduating, he clerked for the Hon. Pierre N. Leval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then worked as an associate at Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin LLP in New York City.
Lawrence C. Marshall, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, is an internationally known authority on criminal law, wrongful convictions and the death penalty. In 1998 he co-founded the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, and was its Legal Director until he moved to Stanford in 2005, where he served as Associate Dean of Clinical Education and David and Stephanie Mills Director of the Mills Legal Clinic from 2005 to 2013. Professor Marshall clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court and for Judge Patricia M. Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He is of counsel to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis and was previously at Mayer, Brown & Platt.
Jim Petro, former Ohio Attorney General, has litigated cases in venues from Mayor's Court to the United States Supreme Court. Before serving as Ohio Attorney General, he was elected State Representative, Cuyahoga County Commissioner, and Auditor of State. He was the nation's first state attorney general to intervene on behalf of an Innocence Project client. He later became a pro bono lawyer for the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) and worked with Director Mark Godsey on Ohio's criminal justice reform law enacted in 2010. An active advocate for criminal justice reform, Petro received the 2010 Innocence Network Champion of Justice Award.
Nancy Petro, a writer, co-authored with Jim Petro
False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent (Kaplan 2011; Peking University Press 2012), which earned a 2011 Constitutional Commentary Award (The Constitution Project) and the 2012 Media Award (Northern California Innocence Project). After a business career, she has focused on criminal justice advocacy, authoring or co-authoring articles for publications such as
InBrief (Case Western Reserve School of Law); the Ohio Innocence Project's
Annual Review; and
Wrongful Convictions & Miscarriages of Justice (Routledge 2013, edited by C. Ronald Huff and Martin Killias). She is a contributing editor of the Wrongful Convictions Blog.
Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, is known around the world for her tireless work against the death penalty. Her best-selling book,
Dead Man Walking, based on her experience as the spiritual advisor to death row inmates, was number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks, has been translated into ten languages, and was the basis of the Oscar-nominated 1996 film and an acclaimed opera of the same name. Sister Helen’s second book,
The Death of Innocents, examines how flaws in the death penalty system inevitably lead to innocent people being executed. Sister Helen is a member of Amnesty International, an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation and the honorary chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group that gathers signatures for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty. She is the public face of the Ministry Against the Death Penalty and continues to counsel inmates on death row and families of murder victims.
Barry C. Scheck is Professor of Law and Emeritus Director of Clinical Education at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Scheck and his colleague Peter Neufeld co-founded and co-direct the Innocence Project, and pioneered the use of DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongly convicted. Scheck is a partner in the law firm Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin, LLP, specializing in civil rights and constitutional litigation. His many publications include
Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong And How To Make It Right, with Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer. His extensive record of public service includes the presidency of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2004-2005), and service on New York State's Forensic Science Review Board, the National Institute of Justice's Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, and the American Judicature Society's National Commission on Forensic Science and Public Policy.
Rob Warden is the co-founder of the Registry, as well as executive director emeritus and co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. His investigations into wrongful convictions in Illinois capital cases in the 1980s set a movement in motion that culminated in the abolition of the state's death penalty on March 9, 2011. Mr. Warden is the author or co-author of hundreds of articles and seven books, including four focusing on wrongful convictions. He currently is working on a book on the execution of likely innocent defendants. Mr. Warden has won more than fifty journalism awards. In 2011, he was one of three local recipients of the first annual Chicago Ideas Week Hero Award. In 2014, he was honored by the Innocence Network, of which he was a founding board member, with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for "innumerable contributions... to educating the public about the prevalence of wrongful convictions and other injustices and his passionate personal commitment to exonerating scores of individuals."
Barbara O'Brien, Editor, is a Professor of Law at the Michigan State University College of Law, where she teaches classes in criminal law and procedure. She earned her J.D. at the University of Colorado School of Law, a Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan, and an A.B. in Economics from Bowdoin College. Her scholarship examines the role of race and other extralegal factors in criminal investigations, trials, and the administration of capital punishment. Her work applies empirical methodology to legal issues, such as identifying predictors of false convictions and understanding prosecutorial decision-making.
Simon Cole, Director and Associate Editor, is Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Director of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at the University of California, Irvine, where he teaches Miscarriages of Justice among other courses. His primary research area is the sociology and history of forensic science, and he has published on forensic science and on miscarriages of justice. Professor Cole is the author of
A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Harvard University Press, 2001) and
Truth Machine: The Contentious History of DNA Fingerprinting (University of Chicago Press, 2008, with Michael Lynch, Ruth McNally & Kathleen Jordan).
Catherine Grosso, Managing Editor, is a Professor of Law at the Michigan State University College of Law. Her scholarship primarily focuses on the administration of capital punishment. This research also examines the role of race in the language of voir dire and the exercise of peremptory strikes during jury selection. She has done several large empirical studies on the influence of race on the administration of capital punishment. Her most recent work, with Barbara O’Brien, has focused on patterns of racial discrimination in capital charging and sentencing decisions in North Carolina. Professor Grosso completed her undergraduate degree at Earlham College and her law degree at the University of Iowa College of Law.
Samuel Gross, Senior Editor and Co-Founder, is the Thomas and Mabel Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School where he teaches Evidence, Criminal Procedure and courses on false convictions and exonerations. He has litigated test cases on jury selection in capital trials, racial discrimination in the use of the death penalty, and the constitutionality of executing defendants in the face of a substantial known risk of innocence. Professor Gross has published many works on false convictions and exonerations, eyewitness identification, evidence law, pre-trial settlement and the selection of cases for trial and racial profiling.
Maurice Possley, Senior Researcher, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of three non-fiction books. He worked for the Chicago Tribune for 25 years, where he investigated numerous cases of wrongful conviction and wrongful execution as well as systemic problems in the criminal justice system. In 2009, he joined the Northern California Innocence Project to research and co-author a ground-breaking report on prosecutorial misconduct in California. He joined the Registry in 2012, where he is responsible for researching and writing case summaries of all exonerations added to the Registry. In this capacity, he obtains court documents, researches media reports and interviews lawyers and investigators.
Ken Otterbourg, Researcher, joined the Registry in 2018. He worked for the Winston-Salem Journal from 1990-2010, the last five as managing editor. The newspaper's investigation of a wrongful conviction was a principal factor in the creation of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2006. As a freelance writer since 2010, his work has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, Fortune, National Geographic and Longreads. At the Registry, he works with Maurice Possley to research and write case summaries of all exonerations added to the Registry.
Eva Nagao, Assistant Director, joined the Registry in 2019. She is the former Managing Director of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago where she oversaw a pro bono legal clinic responsible for dozens of exonerations across the nation, as well as the first-ever mass exoneration in Chicago history. In addition to her decade-long work with professional exonerators, she regularly consults with civic organizations advocating for policy reform in the criminal legal system, most recently working with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and Justice LA. As a part of the Registry, Eva's work focuses on communications, outreach, and strategic planning.
Klara Stephens, Research Scholar, is a former Assistant Public Defender at the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office where she represented clients from first appearance through jury trial in misdemeanor and domestic violence court. She earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School where she spent two years working for the Law School's Innocence Clinic, investigating potential cases of innocence and representing clients in post-conviction proceedings. Klara joined the Registry in May 2016. As part of her work on the Registry's research projects, she wrote and co-wrote articles and reports on false confessions, official misconduct, and race and wrongful convictions.
Jessica Weinstock Paredes, Denise Foderaro Research Scholar, joined the Registry in 2019. She is a former Assistant Public Defender with over four years of collective experience in litigation and advocacy between the Miami Dade County Public Defender's Office and the Hillsborough County Public Defender's Office. She litigated cases from inception to disposition, managing a high-volume caseload that allowed her to gain expertise in all aspects of criminal defense. She earned her B.A. from Florida State University, and her J.D. from Florida International University. As the Denise Foderaro Research Scholar, Jessica will bring her expertise in criminal litigation to new projects exploring forensic analysis, and factual basis for exonerations.
Meghan Barrett Cousino, Special Projects Researcher, joined the Registry in 2016. Her work with the Registry focuses on exonerations that took place prior to 1989 and includes researching possible exonerations, writing case summaries, and maintaining the database of exonerations before 1989. Prior to joining the Registry, she earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 2004 and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007, and she worked for six years as an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Chicago.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.