Event will honor lawyers for Herb Whitlock, as well as legislators who worked for reforms
SPRINGFIELD – The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, housed at the University of Illinois at Springfield, will hold a Defenders of the Innocent Awards Reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at the Pasfield House, 525 S. Pasfield, in Springfield. The event will honor lawyers for Herb Whitlock, recently exonerated of murder, as well as three legislators who worked on reforms in the 2007 legislative session. The event is open to the public, however reservations are required.
The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project works to assist the wrongfully convicted by providing resources for investigation and research, and to develop policy proposals that would help prevent the conviction of innocent persons in the future. This event, rescheduled because of inclement weather earlier in the year, is the first of what the Project hopes to be an annual event to recognize individuals who have worked to help achieve those goals.
At the reception, Whitlock will present awards to Richard Kling and Susana Ortiz -- the attorneys who worked on the final, successful appeal that in January set him free after he spent 21 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Bill Clutter, the Project's director of investigations, said that Kling's and Ortiz' work on the case "represents the finest in the service of attorneys in this country."
Defenders of the Innocent Awards will also be given to state Senator Mattie Hunter and Representatives Art Turner and Paul Froehlich. Hunter, Turner, and Froehlich were instrumental in the passage of Senate Joint Resolution #9, which would establish a Justice Study Commission to examine non-capital exonerations in order to propose additional reforms. The three also spearheaded the effort to pass amendments to the post-conviction forensic testing statute which mandates that fingerprint evidence found at a crime scene be entered into the FBI Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Innocence Project Director Larry Golden noted, "These legislators have been willing to work toward policy solutions to solve the problem of wrongful convictions. Their commitment to social justice must be strongly supported and these awards are one way such work can be recognized."
Tickets are $100 and will be available at the door, or make reservations in advance by calling 217/206-6343.
For more information, contact Golden at 217/553-7171.