Kentucky Innocence Project
The Kentucky Innocence Project (KIP) was developed by the Department of Public Advocacy to provide incarcerated men and women who have legitimate claims of innocence with a resource through which their claims may be investigated and presented to the courts of the Commonwealth for relief.
KIP serves the entire state by not only addressing each case of wrongful conviction but also addressing much broader concerns in the criminal justice system. KIP seeks to introduce innovative social policies, to create progressive legislative and constitutional reforms, and to establish itself as a conduit for progress.
Founded in 2001, the Kentucky Innocence Project provides quality investigative and legal assistance to Kentucky prisoners with provable claims of actual innocence. The Program combines the resources of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (the Commonwealth’s Public Defender Agency) with several of the Commonwealth’s finest educational institutions to extensively investigate and litigate claims of innocence by those convicted in the state of Kentucky. The Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase School of Law, the University of Kentucky College of Law, the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law offer students the opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Innocence Project Externship. These students receive the opportunity to sharpen professional skills while performing a valuable service to the wrongfully incarcerated men and women of the Commonwealth. Unlike many other innocence projects across the country, KIP does not limit cases only to those where DNA evidence exists. Instead the Kentucky Innocence Project strives to release all wrongfully convicted Kentuckians.
Suggested Case Criteria
In order to qualify for the services, prospective clients should meet the following criteria:
• A Kentucky conviction & incarceration;
• A minimum ten-year sentence;
• A minimum of three years until eligible to go before the parole board or if parole has been deferred, a minimum of three years to the next appearance before the Board;
• New evidence of innocence discovered since the conviction which can be investigated; and
• A claim of actual innocence.
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Kerry Porter, imprisoned for murder, is exonerated, freed after 14 years
(Louisville Courier Journal, 12/19/11, by: Andrew Wolfson) After serving 14 years behind bars for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit, a stunned Kerry Porter learned Monday that he was exonerated and hours later was released from prison.
“He was virtually speechless,” said Melanie Lowe, who won Porter’s exoneration after a five-year battle.
“He said it was a lot to take in … and that he was a little nervous” about returning to the real world, she said. “He’s never held a cell phone or seen a flat-screen TV.”
Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze signed an order dismissing Porter’s conviction and ordering him released “immediately and without delay” in the 1996 murder of Tyrone Camp.
That came after Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel agreed to clear Porter.
“We have finally come to the conclusion that Kerry Porter did not commit the offense,” Stengel said at a news conference.
Porter, who was serving 60 years for murder at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty — and wouldn’t have been eligible for release until 2040 — has always maintained that another man, Juan Leotis Sanders, was responsible for Camp’s slaying.
Stengel said his office hopes to charge others for the murder and has several suspects, whom he wouldn’t name.
Lowe and Porter’s mother Janice both cried when Lowe shared the news that Porter would be freed.
“I said I have a Christmas present for you,” Lowe said. “She said, ‘My baby?’ ’’
In an interview, Janice Porter credited Lowe, an assistant public advocate for the Kentucky Innocence Project, and The Courier-Journal with helping win her son’s freedom.
“I am elated and thankful,” she said. “All grace and glory be to God.”
The prison said he was released Monday afternoon.
Stengel announced in August that he was “moving in the direction” of clearing Porter, although early this month that his office would an expected petition to free him.
In a joint motion seeking the dismissal, Stengel and Lowe said that new evidence had come to light which would have with a “reasonable certainty changed the outcome” of Porter’s trial in 1997.
• First, Louisville Metro Police had recently obtained a statement that “clearly implicates a different person,” the motion said.
• Second, testing on duct tape used to make a homemade silencer left at the crime scene revealed DNA that belonged to another man, who could not be identified.
Citing a pending investigation, Stengel would not identify the witness.
Stengel and Lowe both praised Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Denny Butler, who heads the cold-case unit and re-investigated Porter’s conviction. Lowe cited his “good old-fashioned detective work,” and Stengel said Butler, who is retiring this month, had worked as hard to clear Porter as police usually do to convict.
But Lowe and Stengel offered starkly contrasting explanations for what led to Porter’s wrongful conviction.
Lowe blamed it on “investigative tunnel vision” on the part of police and the prosecution, while Stengel said Porter destroyed his own credibility by making up a story that he was with his girlfriend at the time of the crime. She turned out to have been in a drug-rehab clinic.
McKay Chauvin, who prosecuted Porter and is now a circuit judge, angrily disputed Lowe’s assertion.
“She is wrong,” he said. “We were always open to the possibility that Juan Sanders may have done this.”
Chauvin added that Sanders would have been prosecuted “if we had the kind of evidence against him that we had against Kerry Porter.”
Still, Chauvin said he had no problem with Stengel’s decision to free Porter.
“It is Stengel’s call, and I have great confidence in his judgment,” Chauvin said.
Tom Wine, who tried Porter and is retiring from the Court of Appeals to run for commonwealth’s attorney, applauded Stengel’s decision to keep an open mind and work with the Innocence Project.
“I am assuming they weighed all the evidence and made the right decision,” Wine said.
He said he is “sorry” if Porter is innocent “for all the time he spent in there, but it was a clean trial” and he “had to accept the jury’s decision.”
Asked at the news conference what he would say to Porter, Stengel said he would tell him: “I know it took a long time. But we tried to do the right thing.”
Stengel also said he hopes Porter, who had prior convictions for drug offenses and thefts, will “turn over a new leaf.”
Stengel declined to say if Porter deserves compensation for the time he spent behind bars. Unlike some other states, Kentucky has no law mandating payments to wrongfully incarcerated former inmates.
However, after William Gregory was freed in 2000 when newly available DNA testing showed he had been unjustly convicted seven years earlier for rape and attempted rape, he sued the city of Louisville and the state and won settlements totaling $4.6 million.
Lowe said she doesn’t know if Porter will hire private counsel to seek compensation, but she said: “Being in prison for 14 years for a crime I didn’t do, I know I would.”
In an interview, Jerome Camp, the victim’s identical twin brother, said the family has long believed that Sanders — not Porter — was the killer, and it was “wonderful” to hear that Porter had been exonerated.
“I feel real good for Kerry,” said Camp, who plans to meet with him Tuesday.
“I think he is getting the justice he deserves.” Camp said the only thing better would be “if they arrested the real people who did it.”
Sanders, who is serving 17 years in prison for manslaughter in another shooting death, as well as other crimes, has not responded to requests for comment.
Janice Porter, Kerry Porter’s mother, also urged people not to forget about the Camp family, and Lowe said their assistance was instrumental in securing her client’s freedom.
The prosecution claimed at trial that Porter killed Camp out of jealousy. Camp was married to Porter's former girlfriend, Cecilia Camp, with whom he had a son at the time.
Porter contended that Cecilia Camp and Sanders were having an affair and conspired to kill Tyrone Camp to collect on an insurance policy she had purchased on him.
The Courier-Journal review of Porter’s trial found that his wrongful conviction may have begun with a questionable eyewitness identification:
A witness who saw the suspect running from the scene south of downtown Louisville told police on the day of the murder that he probably would not be able to identify the shooter. He did so about a month later — but only after he was shown a single photograph of Porter by Jerome Camp; two days later detectives presented him with a photo pack that includes Porter’s picture.
Experts on eyewitness identification told The Courier-Journal that fatally tainted the identification.
Lowe said the Innocence Project agreed to review Porter’s case in 2006 because it had the “hallmarks” of a wrongful conviction, including the bad ID as well as prosecution testimony from a jailhouse snitch and another offender who was given a deal in exchange for his testimony.
The Courier-Journal reported in August that a cooperating government witness, Francois Cunningham, had told police and prosecutors last year that Sanders asked him to kill Tyrone Camp and that Sanders later admitted doing the job himself.
The newspaper reported that authorities never turned over that information to Lowe; Stengel said at the time they weren’t required to do so and didn’t want to jeopardize another murder investigation.
Lowe said Monday that a combination of factors ultimately contributed to Porter’s exoneration, including media coverage of his plight.
Sometimes, she said, “Justice requires public outrage.”
New Evidence Leads to Porter's release WAVE 3 TV Louisville 12/19/11
Court Documents Show Why Kerry Porter was Exonerated after 14 Years WHAS 11 TV Louisville 12/20/11
Another KY Exoneration – Reform is Needed
Michael VonAllmen's 1982 conviction was vacated June 4, 2010. The Court decided that there was enough evidence to exonerate him. Read about it at: http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20106040358
Public Advocate Ed Monahan, said: “National reports indicate between 4%-10% of the people incarcerated in this country are innocent. Our system must ensure that only guilty people are punished. We are not adequately doing that. Common sense reform is needed now.”
Other persons exonerated in Kentucky are on the Department of Public Advocacy’s Ky Innocence Project page at: http://dpa.ky.gov/kip/
Kentucky’s Innocence Project’s work helps exonerate an innocent man and finds evidence to help police secure a new indictment
from left to right - Commonwealth Attorney David Stengel, Edwin Chandler and Marguerite Neill Thomas
(Louisville, Kentucky, October 13, 2009) An order has been signed by a Jefferson Circuit Court Judge vacating the conviction of Edwin A. Chandler for charges stemming from the robbery and murder of a convenient store clerk in 1993. Mr. Chandler was convicted by a jury in 1995 and received a sentence of 30 years. He was incarcerated for nine years before he was released on parole.
Mr. Chandler has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1993. Fingerprints left on a beer bottle, alleged by the prosecution to have been handled by the perpetrator, were not Mr. Chandler’s. Furthermore, hairs taken from a stocking mask purportedly discarded by the robber, did not match Mr. Chandler’s. The photos recovered from a surveillance tape, a tape erased by the police prior to trial, did not look like Mr. Chandler; and an eyewitness told the jury Mr. Chandler was not the person he saw. Mr. Chandler was convicted on the basis of a statement he gave to the police; a statement he told the courts from the beginning, was coerced.
The Kentucky Innocence Project agreed to investigate his case with the hope technological advancements would help with the hair and fingerprint analysis. While the retesting of the hair did not bear any fruit, the fingerprints taken off the bottle yielded a match to someone already incarcerated in the state on a violent felony. Based on this fingerprint match and additional interviews of the eyewitnesses, Mr. Chandler has been cleared of this crime.
Following the announcement of the exoneration, Public Advocate Ed Monahan, said: “National reports indicate between 4%-10% of the people incarcerated in this country are innocent. Our system must ensure that only guilty people are punished. We are not adequately doing that. Mr. Chandler’s case illustrates the need for common sense reform. Implementing a requirement of video taping confessions, a simple reform already adopted in 500 other jurisdictions, could have prevented this grave injustice.”
Marguerite Neill Thomas, Mr. Chandler’s attorney and the Director of the Kentucky Innocence Project, expressed her relief for Mr. Chandler and his family. Ms. Thomas said, “While it took a slight summer breeze to convict Mr. Chandler, it took a perfect storm to clear his name.” She acknowledged the work of the Chase Law School student who worked on the case, the staff of the Innocence Project who identified the name of the actual perpetrator for the police and were persistent in having the case heard, and to Sergeant Butler of the Louisville Metro Police Department for his diligence in righting this wrong.
The Kentucky Innocence Project is a program of the Department of Public Advocacy established in 2000 to review claims of actual innocence. Students from Chase College of Law and the University of Kentucky College of Law worked with the Kentucky Innocence Project to investigate the cases. To date the Project has been responsible for the release of nine people. Information about these cases is available on the KIP Cases web page.
Because of this established program and proven track record, the Kentucky Innocence Project received a significant grant from the Federal Department of Justice to help investigate claims of innocence that specifically involve testing DNA evidence.
A New Partnership for Forensic Reform
A new group launched by the Innocence Project and partners across the country will seek to raise awareness and support for the creation of federal forensic standards to help prevent wrongful convictions and ensure that the true perpetrators of crime are apprehended and convicted.
The Campaign for National Forensic Science Standards, an educational campaign of the Just Science Coalition, was launched with members in 23 states and will continue to grow. The group will advocate with federal policymakers to help make forensic reform happen.
"This is an issue with urgent national importance, and these local leaders have come together to strengthen the U.S. criminal justice system," Stephen Saloom, Policy Director at the Innocence Project. "Creating national standards for the use of the forensic sciences is critical to ensuring that the true perpetrators of crimes are caught and prosecuted. Too many innocent citizens face prosecution with faulty evidence while the real criminals are free to victimize again, and it's time for that to stop."
Visit the Just Science website for more.
Convicting the Innocent in Georgia: Stories of Injustice and the Reforms That Can Prevent Them The Justice Project 09/09
Trial by fire: Did Texas execute and innocent man? The New Yorker 9/7/09
Report: Faulty fire investigation led to execution AP 8/27/09