The Kentucky Innocence Project (“KIP”) was established in 2001 by the Department of Public Advocacy to provide quality investigative and legal assistance to Kentucky prisoners with provable claims of actual innocence. KIP combines the resources of the Commonwealth’s Public Defender Agency with several of the state’s finest educational institutions to extensively investigate and then litigate claims of innocence.
Q: What types of cases are eligible for assistance?
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.
Q: Does KIP ever accept cases outside of the above criteria?
Yes. All applications for assistance are reviewed and decisions are made on a case by case basis.
Q: How do I request assistance?
In order to qualify for services, you must contact
Kentucky Innocence Project
Attn: Linda A. Smith, Directing Attorney
5 Mill Creek Park
Frankfort, KY 40601
Once your request is received, KIP will send you an application and a questionnaire. You must complete these documents in order to be considered for assistance. If you have problems filling out the application or questionnaire, please contact the Kentucky Innocence Project at 502/564-3948.
Q: Does KIP accept cases involving DNA?
Yes. The Kentucky Innocence Project is equipped to handle cases involving DNA evidence. All assigned cases are subjected to a rigorous investigative process to uncover all evidence of innocence. This ensures that the individual client will receive the best possible shot at exoneration.
Q: Are cases limited to those involving DNA?
No. Unlike other innocence projects, the Kentucky Innocence Project assumes investigation on cases where there are other indicia of wrongful conviction.
Q: What are the “indicia of wrongful conviction”?
The American Justice System sometimes fails. The study of DNA exonerations has revealed disturbing trends within the justice system and identified some of the factors contributing to the problem: False Confessions, Mistaken Identification, Informants/Snitches, False Witness Testimony, Bad Lawyering, Defective or Fraudulent Science, Prosecutorial Misconduct, Police Misconduct, Serology Inclusion.
Q: What happens once a case is accepted by the Kentucky Innocence Project?
Cases are generally accepted and assigned on an annual basis. Once a case is accepted, it is matched with a student from one of our four externship programs. Then, the student and the KIP staff investigate the case throughout the academic year.
Q: Who are the students investigating the Kentucky Innocence Project cases?
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 carefully screen and offer students the opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Innocence Project Externship. Students admitted to the Kentucky Innocence Project Externship have been chosen to participate by having demonstrated both an aptitude and a commitment to the innocence mission. These select students receive the opportunity to sharpen professional skills while performing a valuable service to the wrongfully incarcerated men and women of the Commonwealth.
Q: What responsibilities do individuals with accepted cases have?
Prospective indigent clients need not pay for any of the investigation or litigation fees associated with the work of the Kentucky Innocence Project. However, they must agree to fully cooperate with the investigation and any testing conducted as part of the investigation.
Q: Do all accepted cases eventually reach court?
No. Sometimes the investigation (or DNA testing) does not support the claim of innocence. In these instances, the investigation is halted and the case is closed. KIP makes clear to potential clients the possibility that the investigation may confirm guilt. In a few cases, the investigation may be inconclusive and not yield enough evidence for litigation despite the possibility that the convicted individual may be innocent.
Q: What happens to my application if it is not assigned to a student?
All applications are maintained on file and reviewed every summer as part of the selection process for assignment to students in the fall. Applicants who do not meet the minimum criteria or are otherwise ineligible for services will be notified in writing by mail.
Q: What happens after the person is released from incarceration?
A client’s release is only the first step in a long and difficult journey to life after exoneration. The Kentucky Innocence Project has partnered with the University of Kentucky Graduate School of Social Work to help exonerees adjust to their new life. These social work interns offer a wide variety of services to clients and aid in continuing the mission of the Kentucky Innocence Project.
Q: Do exonerated clients automatically receive large financial settlements?
No. While twenty-two states have compensation statutes which allow wrongfully convicted persons to seek damages, Kentucky does not currently have such legislation. In fact, most exonerees walk out of prison without financial support and it can take years to litigate such a claim. Unfortunately, some exonerees are never compensated.