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The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield honored four individuals with Defender of the Innocent Awards on May 16, 2011. The awards were handed out as part of a 10th anniversary celebration and fundraiser at the Inn at 835 in Springfield.

Those honored with the award included U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill) for his support for the growth and development of the project’s work on behalf of the innocent; former State Police Crime Scene investigator Alva Busch for his work exonerating Belleville resident Keith Harris; true crime author Diane Fanning, whose book about a Texas serial killer helped exonerate Julie Rea Harper of Lawrenceville; and former State Police Investigation Commander Michael Callahan (author of Too Politically Sensitive) whose efforts to re-investigate a Paris, Ill. double murder case helped exonerate Herb Whitlock.