You all have heard of the Innocence Project. It was was founded in 1992 and has helped to prove the innocence of 243 people across the nation since then. Despite this, even the most conservative estimates would suggest that roughly 20,000 of those incarcerated across the nation were wrongfully convicted. Some of them, like Cameron Todd Willingham, are on death row. He was executed in 2004 for allegedly killing his children in a house fire. It was later proved that the fire was an accident.
Therefore, the work needed is immense. In addition, the organization advocates for general criminal justice reform, “including eliminating or reforming qualified immunity and making police disciplinary records publicly available.”
We now have a Delaware Branch of the Innocence Project, which was recently started in 2020.
Delaware’s need for a local branch has been great. Since 1989, only three people have been exonerated in our state, and all of these took place after 2015. Ironically, deep red Texas has one of the best records for supporting exoneration efforts, while our state has one of the worse. Additionally, Delaware’s backlog of cases being reviewed goes back to the 1980s. In 2022, “a report by the American Bar Association found that funding for public defenders [in Delaware]— who are often the first line of defense for innocent people charged with crimes — would have to increase threefold in order to meet the standard of effective counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.”
The local branch has already done the crucial work needed to exonerate Mr. Marlow Wright. Marlow was the youngest person on Delaware’s death row at age 18, and its longest inhabitant. He spent twenty years on death row, in solitary confinement here, for a murder he did not commit in 1992.
The Delaware Branch is looking to raise $15,000 by the end of the summer to cover basic operational costs of the office. However, much more is needed. For reference, a single DNA test costs $10,000 (this is a tool that is crucial to the work), court transcripts can cost $500 per request, and simply preparing court records can cost around $100. Further, the Project operates the Exoneree Fund, which supports exonerees with necessities such as healthcare and housing once they return home. And as you know, those things cost money too.