Three wrongfully convicted New Jersey men today help launch a “Last Resort Exoneration Project” that goes beyond proving innocence through DNA testing, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. “What we are trying to do is often more difficult,” says Lesley Risinger, director of the project at Seton Hall Law School. “We will be trying to prove the innocence of convicted defendants in cases where DNA is not at issue.”
“This is not simply a question of proving whether someone did not get a fair trial,” says D. Michael Risinger, a Seton Hall law professor and Risinger's husband. An expert on evidence, he will work on the project with her. “That happens more frequently. This is a question of proving innocence.” Courts in some countries make finer distinctions about guilt than do American courts. The Scottish courts allow three verdicts — guilty, not guilty, or not proven. The “not proven” verdict suggests that, while the defendant might have committed the crime, the prosecution failed to prove its case. Here, not guilty might mean innocence, or it might mean an unproven case. “We will be looking only for those cases where we are convinced a defendant is factually innocent,” says Lesley Risinger. “The person was not involved in the crime.” That's not so simple. She says gang members have been known to take the rap for more senior gangsters.