With the creation of widely popular podcasts like “Serial”, which focus on true crime stories and point out holes in convictions, the criminal justice system and the very real possibility of unjustly incarcerating innocent people have come to the forefront of people’s minds. But these podcasts and documentaries are not just entertainment—they are real stories of real people who have really suffered.
Wrongful convictions affect real people, confining them to prison for crimes that they didn’t commit or that may not have ever actually happened. But there is hope. Organizations like the Oklahoma Justice League and wrongful conviction attorneys like the team at Norwood Law Firm in Tulsa work to advocate and provide legal representation for the wrongfully convicted in Oklahoma. Keep reading to learn more about why wrongful convictions happen and what the Oklahoma Justice League and Norwood Law Firm are doing to help.
What Is a Wrongful Conviction and Why Do Wrongful Convictions Happen?
A wrongful conviction happens when a person who is factually innocent of criminal charges is convicted or when a person is convicted after procedural errors violated their rights. People who have been wrongfully convicted and unjustly incarcerated can lose years or even decades of their lives (the average person loses 9 years).
And the number of wrongful convictions isn’t small. The Innocence Project makes the conservative estimate that 1% of the US prison population, a little more than 20,000 people, have been falsely convicted. But a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania estimates that wrongful convictions occur in up to 6% of criminal convictions that lead to imprisonment in the state, suggesting the percentage of wrongfully convicted people could be higher than the national estimate in some states.
So why are so many people wrongfully convicted and incarcerated? Exonerations give us insight into reasons for false conviction. Exoneration means that a wrongfully convicted person has been officially cleared of charges based on new evidence of innocence or flaws in the conviction. By looking at all exonerations from 1989 to the present, The National Registry of Exonerations has identified five factors that lead to wrongful convictions: official misconduct, mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, perjury or false accusations, and false or misleading forensic evidence.
How the Oklahoma Justice League and Norwood Law Firm Work to Fight Wrongful Convictions: Corey Atchison’s Story
Nobody should have to suffer in prison for years or potentially their whole life for a crime they did not commit. But those who have been wrongfully convicted can’t get out on their own. That’s why Joe Norwood and Todd Maxwell of Norwood Law Firm, joined by private investigator Eric Cullen, created the Oklahoma Justice League.
The Oklahoma Justice League began with a mission to provide resources to those who have been wrongfully convicted in Oklahoma and began their advocacy by representing Corey Atchison, a man who served 28 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. With the help of the Norwood Law Firm team, Atchison was exonerated in 2019 and officially determined to be actually innocent of the 1990 charge. Not only was Atchison finally free from this unjust conviction but he and the Norwood legal team were also able to seek damages from the state to compensate him for those years lost to a wrongful conviction. In Oklahoma, victims of wrongful conviction can receive up to $175,000 in compensation from the state.
Now, Norwood continues to work to stop wrongful incarceration and represent those who have been wrongfully convicted. And the Norwood team does this work largely on a pro bono basis with the help of donations to the Oklahoma Justice League. The OK Justice League raises money and accepts donations to help cover the cost of litigating and providing representation for the wrongful conviction cases they are currently working on and to provide resources for future cases.
Help Stop Wrongful Convictions Today
If you or someone you love has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, Norwood Law Firm and the Oklahoma Justice League are here to help. Our team of expert wrongful conviction attorneys has a proven track record in successfully representing the wrongfully convicted. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.
If you too care about high incarceration rates and want to fight for the rights and freedom of those who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, you can! Learn more about how you can help the wrongfully convicted, follow the progress of ongoing cases, and start donating today at okjusticeleague.org.
Contact Norwood Law Firm in Tulsa for more information.