Illinois Innocence Project
Publish Date

WHAT: The Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield will hold its annual Defenders of the Innocent fundraising event featuring the Exoneree Band with Amanda Knox. The Band is comprised of six exonerees from across the country who collectively lost over 100 years of their lives to wrongful imprisonment. Amanda Knox was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for four years in Italy in a case that made international headlines for nearly a decade. The Band will share their stories of survival through original songs.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 (doors open at 5:30 p.m., program at 6:30 p.m.)

WHERE: Danenberger Family Vineyards, 12341 Irish Rd., New Berlin, IL

DETAILS: The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) will recognize passage of Illinois’ historic “juvenile deception” bill, which became the nation’s first law to ban law enforcement from lying to youth under age 18 during interrogation. The bill, signed into law July 2021, was the result of the combined efforts of IIP, the Innocence Project, the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

IIP will present its 2022 “Defender of the Innocent” awards to Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, State Senator Elgie Sims, Jr. and Randall F. Witter. Witter provides pro bono legislative consulting and guidance, helping IIP navigate the legislative process and strengthen policymaker relationships. The leadership of Speaker Welch and Sen. Sims during the 2022 legislative spring session is enabling IIP to expand its Wrongful Conviction Awareness and Avoidance training for police cadets and recruits statewide to all Illinois police academies in 2023.

IIP also will present its first-ever “Angel of Justice” award to IIP exoneree Angel Gonzalez. Named in honor of Gonzalez, this new award recognizes individuals who, despite suffering wrongful conviction and imprisonment, give of themselves to improve the lives of others. Gonzalez was released in 2015 after spending 21 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. While he rebuilds his life, he helps others who have suffered the same injustice.

Of IIP’s 22 exonerated and/or released clients, 11 are expected to attend. Media is welcome.

Registration for the Defenders of the Innocent event is required and closes on Thursday, October 13, 2022. Sponsorships are available. Visit or call Courtney Reed at 217- 414-9301.

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