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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis to host Innocence week

Published: November 9, 2007
Section: News

Brandeis Universitys Innocence Club will host Innocence Week from November 12-16, a student-run series of events seeking to educate the community about the unjust convictions of innocent men and women in the American justice system.

The weeks events will feature a display of the 208 exonerees Monday through Friday. Students involved in the planning of the week will also be tabling in Usdan throughout the week with a petition to be sent to Massachusetts officials to expunge the records of exonerees.

Monday Nov. 12, there will be a screening of the film After Innocence, a documentary chronicling the lives of several exonerees after their release. Tuesday will feature a teach-in from 8-9 p.m., during which those members of the club who have interned at one or more Innocence Projects will discuss wrongful convictions and the flaws in our criminal justice system. Wednesday evening at 10 p.m. is the club meeting in the ICC conference room.

Journalist Dick Lehr, whose work in the Boston Globe assisted in the exoneration of Shawn Drumgold, will host a discussion Thursday from 6-8 p.m. Lehr will speak about his experience of independently exonerating a Boston man simply by researching the case and publishing articles in the Boston Globe. Neil Miller, a wrongly-convicted man will speak about his experience and the years he unjustly spent in jail.

Innocence Club President Kate Millerick 08 encouraged students to attend Tuesdays speeches, calling this a must-see event. Millerick explained that these stories and the information that will be provided is something that people should hear about in case they are ever in that situation [so they] know what to look for.

Millerick explained that the club was started to advocate for these exonerees and to educate the campus about the injustice of wrongful convictions. Millerick described the Innocence Club as an advocacy group which really want[s] to just educate people and let them know that this is going on.

Innocence Club Publicity Director Cindy Kaplan 08 brought up the idea for an Innocence Week about two weeks ago at the Innocence Club meeting. It was an idea that she had thought about over the summer, but was unsure of whether others would be interested. When she brought it up, though, members of the club were enthusiastic, and the planning began.

Kaplan explained, this is an issue that I feel so strongly about and said that she is really excited to see how other people respond to that and get more people impassioned about this.

When you first hear about the people who are wrongfully incarcerated, it really gets to you, continued Kaplan. The fact that there are so many of them, its astonishing. She added that at a school about social justice, what better social justice project is there?

Theres this feeling that this is something that has to be done. Were raising awareness that this is an issue and people are being wrongfully convicted all the time and that we can hopefully do more about it, Kaplan explained.

Describing the importance of hosting this week, Kaplan explained, Brandeis students are potential jurors, and the more potential jurors that there are who are aware of these problems, the more likely they are to be fixed. She hopes that the weeks events will raise awareness about the problem and hopefully motivate people.

Both Kaplan and Millerick became interested in this mission after taking an experiential course at Brandeis called Investigating Justice last year and later became interns at the Innocence Project on campus. There, they learned all about the Innocence Project and tried to get a wrongly convicted Massachusetts man out of jail.

By hosting Innocence Week, Millerick hopes to educate the Brandeis community and let them know that this actually happens. It could happen to any of us, it could happen to anyone that we know. Its a really serious issue that we all are very passionate about and we just want to sort of share that passion with Brandeis students and faculty and let them know that this issue exists and maybe some of them will be inspired to join the club, or even the Innocence Project on campus.

Describing the week as the first time there has ever been a whole week dedicated to educating people about this issue, Millerick added that the Innocence Club wants to make any impact that we can.