Whoever takes the helm of the Department of Justice next year will be overseeing a justice system profoundly transformed by the nation’s first female A-G. One of her top priorities—addressing wrongful convictions—is now a hard-to-abandon centerpiece of American justice.
Sixty-three people have sought relief under a 2004 law that allows up to $500,000 in compensation for wrongful convictions. Twenty-three cases have been settled for sums ranging from $60,000 to the legal maximum, and 17 others are pending. One critic says that the $500,000 maximum is inadequate.
Today, a vast web of attorneys advocate on behalf of those who claim wrongful conviction. But from the 1920s to the ’50s, Herb Maris, a corporate attorney with a public defender’s soul, stood nearly alone as he helped free scores of innocent convicts in Pennsylvania.
Anthony Wright spent nearly 25 years in prison until a DNA test proved that another man committed the crime. The Innocence Project assails the Philadelphia district attorney for delays it called “absolutely unconscionable.”