Delaware DOJ creates The Actual Innocence Project

Attorney General Matt Denn and former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely

The Delaware Department of Justice says they have created the Actual Innocence Project.

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn says that the Delaware Department of Justice has started an Actual Innocence Project to make sure that there are no persons serving time in Delaware correctional facilities who have evidence that establishes their innocence.

The process will reportedly be watched over by DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust and will incorporate participation from DOJ’s Criminal Division and a Special Assistant Attorney General to be appointed from outside the Department of Justice. Former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely who is reportedly currently senior counsel at DLA Piper LLP says he will serve on a volunteer basis as the first Special Assistant Attorney General to help with the project.

Officials say the biggest decision of whether to look to reopen an inmate’s criminal matter based on proof of his innocence will stay with the Department of Justice.

The Actual Innocence Project will contemplate inmate petitions who have physical, scientific, or documentary evidence suggesting that they committed no criminal wrongdoing such as forensic evidence, audio or video evidence, electronic evidence, including email or phone records, or other physical evidence. The Actual Innocence Project will reportedly not consider petitions from renunciations, or revisions of prior statements, or the production of new statements.

Attorney General Denn says, “Our prosecutors believe in justice,” that means ensuring that people who have committed crimes are appropriately punished, and it means ensuring that people who have not committed crimes are not punished. The Actual Innocence Project is another tool for us to ensure that we are fulfilling that responsibility.”

Former Justice Ridgely says “If even one person in prison is actually innocent of any crime, that is one person too many,” I look forward to helping the Department of Justice identify if that has happened so that justice may be done.”

Officials say that The Actual Innocence Project is not created to substitute existing processes in Delaware like the clemency process through the Board of Pardons, nor is it for persons who say that they were convicted of or pleaded guilty to a crime more severe than the one they actually committed. The Project is reportedly for people who say they are serving jail time when they really committed no crime.

Attorney General Matt Denn told 47 ABC, “I suspect that there are probably very few people to whom it applies, I have a lot of confidence in our justice system. But if there is even one person who is serving time in prison and has proof that they didn’t commit a crime, that’s something we want to know about.”

People who want to file a petition with the Actual Innocence Project can do so on the Delaware Department of Justice website.

Categories: Delaware, Local News

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