THE INITIATIVE

The Exoneration Initiative (EXI) is a pioneering not-for-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to wrongfully convicted people in New York. We focus on the most challenging cases, those that lack DNA evidence.

Our mission is simple and steadfast: To exonerate the actually innocent.

FIGHTING TO FREE THE FORGOTTEN: Non-DNA Innocence

Since the advent of DNA testing, no one can deny that wrongful convictions are a major problem in our criminal justice system.  But less than 10% of criminal cases have DNA evidence to test. We focus on the other 90%, the forgotten population of innocent prisoners in New York whose last hope for justice is EXI undertaking old fashioned, gum-shoe investigations and sticking it out through hard-fought legal battles – battles that are unfortunately waged in a broken, uncaring, and dysfunctional system.

Very few lawyers and organizations have the expertise and resources to effectively handle non-DNA innocence cases, which are complicated and expensive. It can, and often does, take years of hard work to win a non-DNA exoneration. But EXI is in it for the long haul, wholeheartedly dedicated to freedom and justice for its clients: we are creative, scrappy and fearless. Once we take on a case, we are relentless and never give up.

We answer only to our clients, our conscience, and the truth.

HOW IT WORKS

EXI receives requests for legal assistance from prisoners, their families, and attorneys. Our case screening process starts with our review of a Case Evaluation Form. Our primary criterion for selecting cases is compelling evidence of innocence. When reviewing convictions, we focus on the forms of weak evidence which have been proven unreliable over the past few decades – such as mistaken eyewitness identification, false confession, and bad forensics. We ferret out prosecutorial and police misconduct, and perjury, which also pay significant roles in wrongful convictions. Once we have enough information to guide our investigation, we hit the streets looking for new evidence of innocence which has never been heard on its merits by a judge or jury and then we bring it into court, where we fight to exonerate our client.

All cases are rigorously vetted with the help of law students participating in Brooklyn Law School’s BLS/EXI Innocence Clinic, summer interns, and volunteer attorneys; and are litigated by EXI attorneys. EXI also provides legal support to practitioners and organizations that litigate claims consistent with our cause.

To fulfill our mission of exonerating the actually innocent, EXI:

  • Provides free legal services to indigent prisoners in New York State with compelling claims of innocence;
  • Conducts impact litigation to advance legal precedent favorable to potentially wrongfully convicted people; and
  • Informs and educates the public, the legal profession and the judiciary about the causes of wrongful convictions and the fallibility of the criminal justice system.

EXI is a not-for-profit organization incorporated pursuant to the laws of New York State with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) or the United States Internal Revenue Service.