Thursday, July 31, 2008

Guest Shot: Tennessee Innocence Project Raised From the Dead

from "Pith in the Wind," Caleb Hannan's column/blog in the Nashville Scene

Posted July 30, 2008 at 05:22:49 AM by Caleb Hannan

Good news for wrongfully convicted Tennesseans. The Tennessee Innocence Project (TIP), an offshoot of a national program designed to exonerate prisoners using DNA evidence, may be making a comeback.

The original TIP began in 2000 under the direction of Knoxville lawyer Ken Irvine. It was one of the few Innocence “franchises” without financial backing from a university, relying instead on a network of volunteer lawyers. But a lack of funds and infrastructure kept the project from ever getting off the ground. Irvine accepted a criminal court judgeship and TIP went on permanent hiatus in 2006.

Ben Barton, clinical director at the University of Tennessee’s College of Law, admitted today that the school is in talks with a faculty member to turn the Innocence Project into a separate clinical program.

That’d mean that rather than relying on the rag-tag crew that ran the previous incarnation, the new TIP would be fueled by the cheapest labor available north of Juarez: brainy grad students.
There’s just one problem. Nothing moves quickly in academia. Barton says that even if everything runs according to plan, the new program won’t be in place until next year’s fall semester.

Of course, even if TIP does get off the ground again, there’s no guarantee that DNA evidence will be enough to free the innocent in Tennessee. Just ask Paul House.

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