Nationwide Survey: Innocence and Executive Clemency

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Pennsylvania Innocence Project





Organization Overview:

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project works to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit and to prevent innocent people from being convicted.

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project has a four-fold mission to:

(1) secure the exoneration, release from imprisonment, and restoration to society of persons who are innocent and have been wrongly convicted;

(2) provide clinical training and experience to students in the fields of law, journalism, criminal justice, and forensic science;

(3) collaborate with law enforcement agencies and the courts to address systemic causes of wrongful convictions; and

(4) strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania through public education and advocacy.

Project Name:

Nationwide Survey: Innocence and Executive Clemency
Project Type: 
Policy Analysis

Project Overview:

Many innocent, incarcerated individuals never obtain relief through the court system due to procedural barriers.  The United States Supreme Court has stated that executive clemency - pardons or other similar relief - should be the failsafe for the actually innocent.  In our experience, however, clemency applicants are often still expected to accept responsibility for a crime before their applications will be given serious consideration.  We are interested in canvassing the country to see how various states deal with the question of innocence in their clemency processes.  Our goal is to determine whether there are states whose processes are more receptive to an actual-innocence-based application.  Or, if there are not, whether there is reason to ask the courts to revisit the concept of clemency as a "failsafe" for the actually innocent.


We would like to see an easy reference guide for state approaches to this problem, including information about which states have an avenue for the innocent who are seeking clemency.  We would also like an evaluation of nationwide policy on this topic.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326