By Steven Noble
David Milgaard spent 23 years in prison as an innocent man.
Donald Marshall was behind bars for 11 years before it was proven that he, too, was innocent.
In the wake of such wrongful convictions destroying people’s lives, the Innocence Project was born.
The Innocence Project is an undertaking by a group of Osgoode law students who aim to free innocent people who have been erroneously incarcerated. Ahmed Shafey, one of the students involved in the project, described what they do:
“If we do decide to take on a case we help them to produce fresh evidence, to make their case before the Attorney General.”
Shafey said the group is currently working on “dozens of such cases,” indicating the prevalence of these cases. “Typically, the situation happens when you have an outrageous crime and an inflamed community and a situation where justice needs to be quick and it becomes a bit of a witch-hunt. I don’t mean to imply that it is a conscious thing. People are just trying to do their jobs, but obviously people slip through the cracks,” Shafey said.
Last Friday night the 10 students involved with the Innocence Project put on their first fundraising concert at the Mod Club Theatre on College Street to raise funds to ensure the Innocence Project lives on.
Shafey said he hopes the fundraiser will become an annual event. More than 400 people showed up to support the cause. Of course, the musical lineup didn’t hurt. Creator/Destroyer started off the night, followed by Martina Sorbara’s new band The Fuzz and rapper Kyprios.
Between sets, DJ Jinja kept up the pace, spinning some classic hip-hop tracks. Shafey said he was pleased with Friday’s turnout.”It was a really positive vibe.Not only was everybody interested in the cause, everybody got into the music. Everybody was dancing,” he said.
The $6,000 raised will help pay for investigative costs, as well as administrative costs involved in filing new motions. Aside from the fundraising, Shafey said they hope that “events like this will help to raise awareness about the problem and about this avenue of recourse.”
Anyone interested in making a donation or looking for more information about the Innocence Project can e- firstname.lastname@example.org. The Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) is another local group that does similar work. Their website is Aidwyc.org.